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James Faulkner smashed 116 runs off 72 balls in the seventh ODI against India © PTI

By Abhijit Banare

The No. 6 and 7 batsmen in the line-up are usually called as finishers. When they win matches with odd cameos, they turn into superheroes, and there are days when you are on your knees dejected after missing out on a favourable end result. In either situation, it takes a lot of confidence and ability to absorb the pressure of the situation and more so if the team is chasing. James Faulkner showed a perfect display of the aforementioned characteristics in his breezy innings of 116 from 72 balls.

By the time Faulkner settled in, Maxwell with his brisk hitting prowess had already got out. There was some hope with Watson going aggressive and Faulkner at the other end. After Watson’s dismissal, India were eager to wrap up the match quickly. While runs kept flowing, the odd aerial shot did land in the hands of the fielders, thereby reducing the probability of scripting a successful run-chase. By the time Watson perished, Australia were still 179 runs behind. The enthusiastic Chinnaswamy crowd was still enjoying and cheering the big hits by Australians as an Indian victory was imminent. Under such hapless moments, Faulkner delivered, in what could by one of the finest ODI knocks that won’t be remembered much except for the record of fastest ODI ton by an Australian.

India could have avoided the jittery situation and Faulkner’s record if Shami Ahmed had held on to an easy catch in the deep mid-wicket off Ravichandran Ashwin’s bowling. With more than 150 needed, there was not much even Faulkner and Clint McKay were playing for. However, the ease at which the runs were on offer was a sufficient motivation for Faulkner to keep going. The Tasmanian all-rounder wasn’t as elegant as Rohit Sharma with his strokes. Many of them were wild swings and slogs which flew into the stands.

And if that’s not enough, the splurging of length deliveries at a feeble pace of 130kmph by Vinay Kumar allowed Faulkner to single-handedly help Australia claw back into the game. The bowlers were themselves to blame to keep the match interesting. The fuller deliveries were like sudden thought that brushed their minds once in an over while the rest of the balls lacked compelling reason to trouble the batsmen. McKay, who was content in giving the strike to his partner by sticking around till then, too got the urge to swing his arms at a few.

From the 38th over, the mood of the spectators kept shifting dramatically. The loud cheers shifted to sudden silence when the ball hit the boundary ropes. The spectators awaited who would reach the century first — home boy Vinay Kumar or Faulkner — and to their amusement the bowler conquered it comfortably. It’s extremely difficult to have a tail-ender and at the same time keep an eye on the surging required run-rate. But Faulkner balanced both with perfection. Much of that credit should go to McKay as well who held on calmly. At one point the pair completed its 50-run partnership with McKay batting on a duck.

It would have been a sensational partnership if Australia had pulled off the heist. McKay got out for 18 in 37 balls in a chase of 383. And yet Australia had enough overs to reach the target sans wickets in hand.

Faulkner’s two fine performances — one at Mohali and the other being the Bangalore innings — would have given him immense confidence of being an integral part of the Australian set-up for the 2015 World Cup. It also puts him in a fine position ahead of the Ashes. His ability to consistently deliver under pressure situations makes his presence invaluable to the team.

Australia are slowly building up to a team which New Zealand were best known for i.e. having the most impact all-rounders in the playing XI. Watson, Maxwell and Faulkner are already the best explosive set you could ever ask for in the 50-over and T20 format just like the Kiwis had Nathan Astle, Chris Cairns, Scott Styris and Jacob Oram.

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)