SK Elite: When James Faulkner's last-gasp heroics helped Australia beat India
Cricket is famously known as the game of glorious uncertainty where nothing can be ascertained until the last ball is bowled or the last run is scored. That is what makes cricket beautiful because it is unpredictable which has led experts to consider it to be a metaphor for life.
How many times have we seen a game twist and turn this way and that so that it becomes impossible to predict its outcome? One team seems to be dominating until an unlikely hero comes along to decisively swing the game in the favour of his team.
And speaking of unlikely heroics, what can be more thrilling than a lower order batsman powering his team to victory? When the team chasing seems on the verge of a sure defeat, what is more exciting than the tail scoring a few runs to bring about the proverbial twist in the tale?
Back in October 2013, Mohali witnessed one such Herculean showdown when the Australian all-rounder James Faulkner snatched victory for his team from the jaws of defeat.
A see-sawing encounter
With the series knocked at 1-1, the 3rd ODI at Mohali was bound to be a high-intensity clash between the two cricketing superpowers. India did not start off early, losing 4 quick wickets, with only 76 runs on the board.
Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh were dismissed off consecutive deliveries in the 13th over to leave the team reeling. But in walked the captain MS Dhoni and he strung together a crucial partnership until Kohli departed for a well-compiled 68.
There were minor contributions from the tail, but Dhoni was the lone warrior as he scored a brilliant 139 to power India past the 300-run mark.
Chasing 304 for victory, Phil Hughes and Aaron Finch gave the Aussies a solid start before a minor collapse came about in the 20th over, as Australia lost three quick wickets.
George Bailey and Adam Vogues steadied the ship but Bailey got out closely followed by the in-form Maxwell who was run out cheaply. And when Brad Haddin followed, Australia were in all sorts of trouble, at 213 for 6 in the 42nd over.
Vogues fought a lonely battle but he was running out of partners at the other end. In walked James Faulkner then and literally stole the show.
The Faulkner show
James Faulkner over the years has been a hugely underrated all-rounder though he has delivered the goods for the Aussies on numerous occasions. On that cold October night in Mohali, he showed what a valuable asset he is to the team.
In the initial stages, Faulkner played with a calm and composed head to keep Australia in the hunt. He went after Vinay Kumar, stepping out to play powerful cover drives to the boundary. When Kumar bounced him, he pulled him over the keeper’s head.
Faulkner was in an unrelenting mood and he was doing enough to keep Australia in the chase. But he had scored 20 odd runs when Ishant Sharma came in to bowl the 48th over. Australia then required 44 off 18 balls and the chase seemed to be going beyond their reach.
Sharma bowled a wide length ball and Faulkner powered the first ball through the offside for a boundary. When Sharma dug the next one short, Faulkner pulled him nonchalantly for a six. Then Sharma over-corrected, bowling a length ball, which Faulkner gleefully dispatched for a colossal straight six.
The fifth ball was another short delivery which disappeared for another six and the last ball saw a short arm jab which went for a flat six. Sharma had disappeared for 4, 6, 6, 2, 6 and 6 in that over, leaking 30 runs.
Ravichandran Ashwin just conceded 5 runs off the 49th over but the damage had been done by then. In the last over, Faulkner dispatched a Vinay Kumar full toss for a six to win it for his team. He had scored an incredible 64 off 29 balls and was adjudged the Man of the Match for his brilliant innings.
MS Dhoni had milked 21 runs off Faulkner’s last over but the latter had the last laugh. India ultimately went on to win the series 3-2 in a thrilling fashion after Rohit Sharma scored a double-hundred in the last match.
That dreadful over by Ishant was never quite forgotten and he eventually began to struggle to find a place in the ODI team. And thankfully for India, they can now boast of a much better limited overs bowling attack ever since the emergence of the Yorker specialist Jasprit Bumrah.
You can watch Faulkner’s innings here.