Marcus Stoinis does the unthinkable and breaches fortress Chepauk

Why No. 3 is the best position for Stoinis at LSG (2:43)

Tom Moody and Wasim Jaffer on the effectiveness of Stoinis in the top order (2:43)

The cracking sound of bat hitting the ball reverberated around Chepauk. You might have even heard it at the Marina Beach or Anna Salai. Because a capacity crowd in Chennai was stunned into silence.

A slider from Moeen Ali was pumped into the quiet stands beyond the long-on boundary. Nicholas Pooran, who is an elite six-hitter himself, was amused by that power. There was an eerie silence all around Chepauk once again when the new crowd-favourite Matheesha Pathirana was flat-batted between extra-cover and mid-off.

Marcus Stoinis did the unthinkable and breached fortress Chepauk.

Of all the grounds in the IPL, Chepauk arguably has the noisiest crowd. Just ask Andre Russell, who had shut his ears when MS Dhoni walked out to the tune of Hukum from the Rajinikanth movie Jailer earlier this month. The Chennai crowd was at its loudest once again on Tuesday evening when their Thala was welcomed with another popular song: Nee singam thaan (You are a lion) from the Silambarasan starrer Pathu Thala. They went wild when Dhoni launched a mini-helicopter to finish Chennai Super Kings' innings with a last ball-four off Stoinis.

A couple of hours later, however, Stoinis flipped the script and finished off a steep chase for Lucknow Super Giants, with Dhoni watching the ball disappear over short fine leg from behind the stumps.

The result didn't look as likely when Deepak Chahar had knocked Quinton de Kock over for a duck in LSG's pursuit of 211 on a two-paced Chepauk track. Even the new ball was coming slow off the pitch, which messed with de Kock's timing and had him chopping on.

Before Tuesday's game, LSG had the worst average (9.33) and strike rate (101.81) for No.3 batters in the IPL. So, the team management shook things up by bumping Stoinis up to No.3. With de Kock falling off the third ball of the chase, Stoinis was virtually opening the batting.

This was the first time that Stoinis was batting at No.3 or above for LSG in 34 innings in the IPL. He responded with an unbeaten 124 off 63 balls, the highest score in an IPL chase.

Stoinis, however, is no stranger to batting up the order. He has opened the batting for Melbourne Stars in 56 innings in the Big Bash League (BBL) and is among the most-prolific top-three batters in that league since he slotted into that role for Stars from 2015-16.

Stoinis has even opened the batting for Delhi Capitals in an IPL knockout game, in Abu Dhabi in 2020. DC had dropped Prithvi Shaw for that match and in his place at the top, Stoinis scored 38 off 27 balls to help set up DC's win.

After LSG beat CSK on Tuesday, their captain KL Rahul made sense of Stoinis' promotion. "We wanted to be a lot more braver as a team," Rahul said. "We had three games - a couple at home and one away from home - where we couldn't get past 170 and we felt we needed to capitalise the powerplay. And we need one power-hitter in the top three. [If] the top three goes really hard and then you have Pooran at the back end and you have a couple of Indian players who can play around them and do the job of playing spin really well."

When Stoinis opens the batting for the Stars, he usually prefers to take some time to suss out the conditions before kicking into higher gears. He followed a similar template against CSK: he was on 16 off 11 balls at one point, but in the final over of the powerplay, he took Shardul Thakur for back-to-back fours. Stoinis then zoomed to a 26-ball half-century and converted it into a 56-ball hundred.

CSK head coach Stephen Fleming wasn't surprised one bit, having coached him at Stars in the BBL.

"Yeah, he's got power but he's also got really good batsmanship," Fleming said. "In the Stars, we got him up to open the batting and he was quite prolific. So, I've seen it and I've seen the way he can control an innings and today he quietly went about his work. Today his fifty came off mid-20 balls and then he just controlled the innings and what more can you ask from your top three?

"They [LSG] needed someone to answer what Ruturaj [Gaikwad] did [108 off 60 balls]. And Stoinis did that beautifully. Not a surprise; we knew he's a dangerous player and we knew we needed to get him out with Pooran and the other two [Rahul and de Kock] at the top. We got close but we couldn't get the last one out."

Once the dew set in later in the evening, the conditions became better for batting than what it was when CSK batted first. But there were also pockets in the chase where Stoinis had to sit back and leave the boundary-hitting to his partners. Stoinis, who had faced Pathirana just once before Tuesday, initially struggled to pick his action and release point, which is lower than Lasith Malinga's. While Stoinis managed 15 off 12 balls against Pathirana, Deepak Hooda clattered him for 11 off five balls.

"It's not just go, go, and go," Stoinis said after winning the Player-of-the-Match award. "I guess it was ebb and flow the whole innings. There were some bowlers we wanted to target and some we played cautionary against. You always want to keep the balls and run rate in control, I guess. So, it was a really important innings that Nicky P played and [Deepak] Hooda's innings because for a while I felt like I couldn't hit a boundary."

It eventually came down to LSG needing 17 off the last over from Mustafizur Rahman. The Bangladesh seamer ditched his whippy cutter for the yorker and repeatedly missed his lengths. Dew or no dew - there is no margin for error in the IPL, especially against a big hitter like Stoinis. He went 6,4,4 (nb),4 to cap a remarkable victory for LSG, with three balls to spare.

With Devdutt Padikkal still struggling for runs - he scored only 13 off 19 balls against CSK - there is a strong case for Stoinis to continue at No.3 for LSG. After all, he has shone at the top for the Stars and has now beaten CSK - and their yellow army - in Chennai.