Both Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab went into the match on Friday with neither side having a distinct advantage. But, while both teams are equally talented, Rajasthan did well enough to win comfortably in the end. The match was well contested for most part, but Rajasthan pulled away at the key moments. And, one man was primarily responsible for the same. Australia's World Cup final hero James Faulkner, as he has so often done, once again delivered under crunch situations. Had it not been for contributions from him both ball and ball, the end result would have been much closer.
When Faulkner came into bat, Rajasthan had lost half their side without too many on the board. The wicket of Faulkner would have definitely put Rajasthan in dire circumstances. It was a tough challenge for Faulkner since Rajasthan also needed to up their run rate. But, Faulkner batted with great sense, scoring at a decent pace while ensuring he kept his wicket in hand. He was well supported by Deepak Hooda, who made sure that Faulkner was not fighting a lone battle. In the last few overs, Faulkner was brilliant as he changed gears. He proved once again why he is such a dangerous batsman down the order.
After his batting exploits, Faulkner stood up with the ball as well. Rajasthan were already in a healthy position when Faulkner came on to bowl. However, the major threat from Kings was still around in the form of Glenn Maxwell. Faulkner saw to it that there was no fight back from Punjab by sending back the dangerous Maxwell. Faulkner also added the scalps of other Aussies, George Bailey and Mitchell Johnson, but by that time the match was all but over. The consistency with which Faulkner delivers these match-winning all-round performances is amazing, and he can only improve with age.
Even Faulkner apart, Rajasthan's overall performance in the field was classy. Tim Southee gave them a perfect start sending back Virender Sehwag first ball with a well angled delivery. He later came back to dismiss Axar Patel. Chris Morris and Dhawal Kulkarni were economical while Sanju Samson was brilliant in the field effecting two run-outs, and taking a nice catch. There was also a believe or not catch on the boundary pulled off by two fielders.
Punjab had their chances in the game, but they did not run down the opposition when they were on top. Anureet Singh was highly impressive with the ball at the top. But, they could have find their groove when Hooda and Faulkner attacked with the bat. While batting, a number of them got starts, but no one carried on. The list includes Murali Vijay, George Bailey, Axar Patel and David Miller. Not surprisingly then, they fell well short in the end.