The Rajasthan Royals began their Pepsi IPL 2015 campaign on a victorious note as they outclassed hosts Kings XI Punjab by 26 runs at the MCA International Stadium in Pune. After posting 162 for 7 on a green and lively surface, the Rajasthan Royals bowlers never allowed KXIP to get their foot into the run-chase, eventually restricting them to 136-8.
Faced with an asking rate of 8.15, KXIP got off to the worst possible start. They lost Virender Sehwag off the very first ball, who chased a wide delivery and the outside edge was pouched by wicket-keeper Sanju Samson diving full stretch to his right. The RR wicket-keeper had a hand in the dismissals of Wriddhiman Saha and Murali Vijay shortly after too, scoring direct hits to catch both batsmen short of their ground.
Batting at number five and seven, Axar Patel and George Bailey didn’t get too many freebies and struggled to find the boundaries, despite the required run rate mounting with every passing delivery. Patel perished in the 18th over having made 24 from 28 balls, while Bailey perished in the 19th over for 24 (18 balls). KXIP eventually finished their allotted 20 overs with 136 runs on the board.
Faulkner capped off his evening by playing a role in sending back the dangerous Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Mitchell Johnson and George Bailey. He picked up the wickets of Maxwell, Johnson and Bailey. Stood at deep thirdman, he then gleefully accepted a catch that would send back Miller. While Faulkner (3-26) returned the most successful bowler of the evening, the 43-year old leg-spinner – Pravin Tambe – also impressed. On a surface more conducive to pace bowlers and where the KXIP spinners had leaked 77 runs in eight overs, Tambe bowled his three overs and conceded just 15 runs.
Earlier in the evening, RR got off to a poor start losing both their openers in the first three overs. Steve Smith, who captained the team on the day owing to an injury to regular captain Shane Watson, and Karun Nair steadied the innings. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel was introduced into the attack in the sixth over and both the RR batsmen pounced on him straight away; Smith struck consecutive boundaries, while Karun deposited one into the stands. But the bowler had the last laugh as he darted one and breached past the defences of Karun. The promising partnership was nipped at 21 runs.
Smith continued to accumulate runs picking up the singles regularly apart from hitting the odd boundary, before he was done in by a quick short-pitched delivery from his compatriot Mitchell Johnson and holed out to thirdman. The RR skipper made 33 from 23 balls.
RR slipped further two balls later when Stuart Binny edged one to wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha. RR were placed at 76 for 5 after 11 overs and it appeared they would struggle to bat out the 20 overs. But the 19-year old Deepak Hooda and James Faulkner put the innings back on the rails with some sensible and conservative batting. They took calculated risks – which paid off on the day, and when it was time to cut loose, they did right so at the end. Hooda hit Anureet Singh for a four and a six off consecutive deliveries, but had his leg stump pegged back off the fourth ball of the 17th over. Faulkner hit the final delivery of the following over into the stands and then got stuck into Johnson (possibly due to his familiarity of playing him in the Australian team nets) the following over. He hit him for two fours and a six in the 19th over. Though he was dismissed in the final over – after scoring 46 from 33 balls, he had done his job well enough to take the team to a competitive 162 for 7.
For KXIP, Anureet Singh (3-23) was the most successful bowler, while Sandeep Sharma, who took the new ball first up, bowled out his four overs unchanged and finished with figures of 4-1-19-1. Mitchell Johnson, used on the day as the fifth bowler, ran in hard and didn’t hold back; his fastest delivery was clocked at a speed of 149.2 kph and his average speed was 142.3 kph. His first spell figures read 2-0-8-2, with 7 of their 8 runs coming by means of wides.
Rajasthan Royals 162-7 in 20.0 Overs (James Faulkner 46, Anureet Singh 3-23) beat Kings XI Punjab 136-8 in 20.0 Overs (Murali Vijay 37, James Faulkner 3-26)
Man of the Match: James Faulkner, who scored 46 and then took 3-26.