A late assault from Australia’s James Faulkner on his World Cup-winning teammate Mitchell Johnson helped Rajasthan Royals begin their 2015 IPL campaign with a surprise win over Kings XI Punjab.
This was, arguably, poised to be the first real showcase event of this year’s tournament: a World Cup greatest hits, of sorts. Kings XI Punjab’s Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and Thisara Perera collided with the Rajasthan Royals’ Steve Smith, Faulkner, Tim Southee and Ajinkya Rahane – Shane Watson missing out with a bruised hip.
The Royals found themselves in trouble early on as they lost their openers in consecutive overs. First Rahane, bogged down on nought from eight balls, top-edged a pull off Anureet Singh to Axar Patel at mid-off, before Sanju Samson played around a straight one from Sandeep Sharma and was given out lbw.
Karun Nair then threw his wicket away, missing out with a slog sweep and being bowled by Patel after 15 had already come from the over, to increase the pressure on his team at 39-3. However a partnership of 39 between Smith and Stuart Binny steadied the innings.
The much-anticipated battle between Smith and Johnson proved a short one, as, after one over in which neither batsman managed to lay bat on ball, the bowler had his ODI captain caught on the third-man boundary. Johnson then removed Binny later in the same over.
Faulkner and Deepak Hooda, on IPL debut, added 51 before the latter was yorked by Anureet. The Australian batsman continued with some lusty hitting though to make 46 from 33 balls, including 19 off the hitherto unplayable Johnson’s final over, to help lift his side to 162-7 – a competitive-looking score on a seam-friendly pitch.
The New Zealander Southee gave the Royals the perfect start by removing Virender Sehwag for his fourth IPL golden duck with the first ball of the reply. Murali Vijay was fluent with the bat and found the boundary regularly but he struggled to find a reliable partner, as Wriddhiman Saha followed soon after when he was brilliantly run-out by his fellow wicketkeeper Samson for seven, and Maxwell mistimed a slog to Southee at cover to go for the same score.
Samson repeated the feat to run Vijay out with another direct hit and put the 2014 table-toppers in trouble at 64-4. Though the required run-rate continued to creep higher, they would have been confident until Miller, their “finisher”, was caught by Faulkner on the third-man boundary for 23.
The result was all-but-confirmed when Axar Patel was yorked by Southee for 24 then Johnson was caught in the deep for a duck. There was just time for one final flourish in the match, when George Bailey fell in the penultimate over to a stunning relay catch on the boundary by Nair.
Before the match, it was reported that last month an unnamed Rajasthan Royals player informed the BCCI’s anti-corruption and security unit of an approach to fix matches for money.
Anurag Thakur, the BCCI secretary, tweeted on Thursday: “A player was approached and he immediately intimated BCCI anti-corruption unit. Glad that BCCI education policy [is] showing positive results.”
Raghu Iyer, the Rajasthan Royals CEO, said in a statement: “Rajasthan Royals commends the player for having reported this incident immediately and for his honesty and uprightness. His dedication to maintain the highest standards of integrity needs to be lauded.
“Rajasthan Royals in keeping with its zero tolerance approach immediately reported the incident further to the ACSU/BCCI for further process. Rajasthan Royals will continue to provide full support and assistance to the BCCI to ensure that the game of cricket is played in the right spirit. This incident does highlight that if players and other officials cooperate and disclose information or approaches immediately, the game can be kept clean and free from undesirable elements and activities.”
This article was written by Dan Lucas, for theguardian.com on Friday 10th April 2015 19.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010