James Faulkner hit a timely 46 as the Australian all-rounder led Rajasthan Royals to a respectable 162 for seven after a horror start against Kings XI Punjab in their Indian Premier League match, here today.
Faulkner’s valuable knock, in which he punished the rival bowlers with two fours and three sixes, came when Royals were gasping at 75 for five.
Seeing a ‘green’ pitch, bowling first was a difficult temptation to resist and Kings XI Punjab skipper George Bailey made the easy choice.
The going was tough and Rajasthan did not have wait to realise that as their premier batsman Ajinkya Rahane back in the dugout without bothering the scorer.
Such was assistance from the pitch that it was hard to negotiate the domestic pair of Sandeep Sharma and Anureet Singh, who relished bowling on a juicy pitch.
Interestingly, Bailey held back his fastest bowler, fellow Australian Mitchell Johnson.
After Anureet scalped Rahane, Sandeep trapped the other opener Sanju Samson (5). Royals were reeling at 14 for 2.
Inspiring Australian Steven Smith though looked in glorious touch as he continued his rich form of World Cup. His successive boundaries off spinner Axar Patel released some pressure and it seemed to have rubbed on Karun Nair too as he hit the left-armer for a six in the same over.
However, the spinner took the revenge in the very next ball, finding the middle stump of Nair (8).
Johnson was introduced as late as in the ninth over and the left-armer straightaway made an impression with some unplayable deliveries.
Smith went about his business calmly from one end before his top edge of Johnson flew to Karanveer Singh at third man. The Australian quick returned and sent back Stuart Binny, who failed to negotiate the ferocious pace and was caught behind.
At 75 for five, Royals’ innings was in disarray and in need of a saviour, who came in form of Faulkner. The burly Australian batted fearlessly. His strokes were laced with power and precision as he took his side to a fighting total.
He did not even spare the best rival bowler, creaming off 20 runs from Johnson’s over.