Rajasthan Royals 162 for 7 (Faulkner 46, Anureet 3-23) beat Kings XI Punjab 136 for 8 (Vijay 37, Faulkner 3-26) by 26 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It is almost as if James Faulkner was built from the ground up with only one question in mind: What would a Finisher need? Power, he has that. Common sense, he has that by the truckload. Percentage cricket, he doesn't play any other kind. And confidence, he's won a World Cup. Today in Pune, he walked in after Kings XI Punjab shredded the Rajasthan Royals top order. But 75 for 5 was nurtured through the middle overs to 110 for 5 in the 15th and then Faulkner exploded. His 46 off 33 balls lifted Royals to 162, which proved 26 more than necessary.
Faulkner, with the ball this time, insured that result by the fifth over of the chase when he dismissed Glenn Maxwell for 7. Tim Southee was at the other side of that wicket, falling low to his left to convert a touch chance. He bettered that in the 19th over with a hokey-pokey catch, featuring spectacular assistance from Karun Nair, that will shred Youtube hit counters, crash ESPNcricinfo and break the internet.
And so the Achilles heel of the Kings XI batting line-up was found: a mix of enterprising bowling and electric fielding. And it was on view from the very first ball of the chase - a delicious outswinger from Southee, an acrobatic catch from Sanju Samson and Virender Sehwag was handed a golden duck. Samson produced another gem when he ran Wriddhiman Saha out after the batsman had lazily strolled out of his crease in search of a sneaky leg-bye. A second direct hit from Samson would catch M Vijay, whose 37 was Kings XI's top score, short and leave the score at 64 for 4 in the ninth over.
With their fielders' alertness to bank on, the Royals bowlers upped their game. Their lengths and lines were stifling, the scoreboard pressure grew and batsmen were lured into making mistakes. With 71 needed off seven overs, David Miller, the last remaining hope for Kings XI, attempted to manufacture a boundary against a ball that got too big on him. His ungainly pull ended up a leading edge that sailed down to Faulkner at deep third man.
Both teams' bowlers had made excellent use of a Pune pitch not lacking for grass. After losing the toss and being stuck in first, Steven Smith said he was unsure of how it might behave. Perhaps that's cricketer-speak for 'I hope it doesn't jag all over the place'. His concerns were well-founded and the Kings XI new ball bowlers were a menace. Sandeep Sharma beat Ajinkya Rahane four times in the first over and was as much a part of the batsman's downfall in the next over as Anureet Singh who induced the unnecessary slog. The batsmen would be defeated eight more times by the moving ball and the score would read a docile 35 for 3 at the end of the Powerplay.
Then came Johnson. There were no snarls, no verbals, but the theatre was magnificent. Nine balls he unleashed that touched no part of the bat, and the first time contact was made resulted in the wicket. And not just any old scalp, this was Steven Smith. This was bragging rights over the future Australia captain. Johnson first two overs yielded only eight runs, and only three times did a batsman make contact and survive.
Faulkner provided two of those instances and racked up many more as he bashed Johnson for two sixes and a four in the 19th over to pull off the star turn. The 51 runs off 36 balls he added with a bold, 19-year-old Deepak Hooda helped Royals reach the final five overs with wickets in hand.
Welcome to the Faulkner zone. Collect your defeat on the way out.