When he came in to bat, Punjab were 5 for 75 and Mitchell Johnson was running hot for Punjab, having knocked out Steve Smith and Stuart Binny in quick succession. Barring a successful charge-and-heave against Johnson, Faulkner was circumspect early on. Around the time when he was trying to build a partnership with Deepak Hooda, RR mentor Rahul Dravid was interviewed near the dug out and he seemed vaguely hopeful of reaching 140. Show some more trust in your all-rounder, Mentor!
Faulkner was allowed to breathe easy by Hooda, who started to take on the bowling and they reached 138 for 6 in the 19th over when Faulkner decided to impose himself against Johnson. Johnson has been hit before but Faulkner dismissed him in a thrilling fashion: going down on his knee and carving him over the on side. The third ball of the over, a length delivery, saw Faulkner swatting it over midwicket.
The right knee bent, in fact resting on the knee, and the bottom-hand carve coming across as if he was in some slasher movie.
The knee bent again the next ball and he bludgeoned a full-pitched delivery to long-off boundary, but it was the six off the fifth ball that perfectly captured the violence. It was a length delivery on middle and leg, and for a moment it seemed Faulkner was going to be cramped for room but somehow, he swivelled completely and swung his bat across to deposit the ball amidst screaming fans beyond the square-leg boundary. Powered by that furious hitting, Rajasthan surged over 160.
With M Vijay progressing smoothly and Glen Maxwell in a mood to hit out, Punjab looked well on course in the chase at 46 for 2 in the fifth over when Faulkner turned it around. Two length deliveries angled across an impatient Maxwell who just about managed to clear mid-on and almost spooned a catch to short-cover. Then came the killer blow. Maxwell was on the charge but Faulkner not only dragged back the length but also got it to bounce more. Maxwell’s bat turned and he sliced it to left of mid-off where Tim Southee, who had taken out Virender Sehwag first ball, took a lovely tumbling two-handed catch, well away from his body.
With 71 runs adrift of the target, and less than seven overs left, Punjab’s hopes rested with David Miller, who seemed in good flow. Surprised by a short delivery from Dhawal Kulkarni, Miller stabbed at it but the resultant edge took the ball swirling to right of thirdman where Faulkner moved swiftly to his right to take a neat catch to sink Punjab. Game over.
Before he moved to Rajasthan Royals, Faulkner played a year for Punjab, an outing that he doesn’t have fond memories of. He has spoken about how he has been treated better by the Royals. Considering all that, Friday’s all-round performance would have felt that much better.
As a boy, James Faulkner used to play backyard cricket with his father Peter, a former Tasmanian player and there is this lovely tale that captures the coming of age story of the boy. One day, Peter made James bowl at him for hours, and when the boy wanted to sulk away, he was told” “keep on bowling”. That revenge is best served cold was proved when a year later, it was James’ turn to say, ‘keep on bowling’ after batting for more than three hours against a tiring Peter! Over the years, he has retained, and honed, that competitive instinct and it came yet again to the fore on Friday night against his old team Punjab.