James Faulkner smashed 33-ball 46 © IANS (File photo)
James Faulkner smashed 33-ball 46 © IANS (File photo)

Rajasthan Royals (RR) crawled to a respectable total of 162 for seven in their allotted 20 overs, against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in their opening match of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2015 tournament’s third match, at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Ground in Pune on Friday. It was largely due to James Faulkner‘s late blitz that Rajasthan were able to set a target in excess of 150, especially after they were reduced to 75 for five at one stage.

Rajasthan made a poor start as Ajinkya Rahane, trying to break the shackles after facing seven balls for dots, charged down the wicket and got a leading edge. Akshar Patel, placed at the mid off  position did not have to do much, as the ball travelled high in the air before dropping on him, off Anureet Singh. Live Cricket Updates: Kings XI Punjab vs Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2015

The second blow was delivered soon, though it did not look completely convincing. Sandeep Sharma pitched one into the line of the off-stump and the ball hit Sanju Samson on the pads, it looked like it hit him high on the leg but the umpire declared the batsman out leg-before. Kings XI Punjab vs Rajasthan Royals Live Cricket Score IPL 2015: Match 3 at Pune

All hopes of revival then fell on Steven Smith, who smashed two spectacular boundaries down the wicket off Patel in the sixth over of the innings, coming down the track and driving the ball easily past the man at mid on.

Karun Nair, who could have provided a steady support to Smith in the middle, got swayed after smashing the fifth delivery for a six over midwicket, and was cleaned up. Patel deserves full marks for the wicket as he bowled at the same length, but this time in line of the middle stump and the batsman failed to get his bat in time, and Kings XI Punjab rejoiced their third wicket.

Sandeep Sharma was bowled out and it was only in the ninth over when Mitchell Johnson was put into bowl by George Bailey. Johnson was in rhythm right from the first ball. The left-arm tearaway was on the mark as he has Stuart Binny all at sea. There was one delivery that bounced considerably, missing Binny’s bat and the wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and raced to the boundary. Eight runs were scored in the over without a single coming off the bat.

However, the 10th over saw Johnson doing what he is known for. Smith tried to pull the first delivery, a short one on to the leg side but got a leading edge, as he was beaten by the extra pace. The ball flew straight to the fielder at third man. Smith fell after scoring 23-ball 33, studded with five boundaries.

Binny, who was nowhere close to being comfortable against Johnson, was caught behind on the third delivery in the over. Johnson delivered the ball from over the wicket, in the off-stump channel and got an outside edge.

James Faulkner and Deepak Hooda then teamed up to revive Rajasthan, as Johnson too was taken away and they made most of the opportunity. While Faulkner looked to deal in singles and doubles, Hooda went for his shots. In the 14th over from Karanveer Singh, the right-handed Hooda slammed two sixes — one over long on and another over the covers playing it inside out — taking Rajasthan past the 100-run mark. Johnson came back in the 14th over but this time around he was hit for a boundary by Faulkner.

Hooda took the charge of the proceedings and raced to 15-ball 30, which included three sixes. He was cleaned up by Anureet when the batsman shuffled across and lost his off-stump, but the highlight of the over was his lofted six over covers and a four which pierced the men at point and extra cover.

It was in the 19th over when Faulkner really opened up — smashing two sixes and a boundary to add as many as 20 runs — spoiling Johnson’s figures and providing his side the much-needed boost in the contest. Faulkner’s innings ended in the final over when he picked up the man at long on, trying to hit a low full-t0ss for a six. Faulkner faced 33 balls, struck three sixes and two boundaries to score 46 runs.

Brief scores:

Rajasthan Royals 162 for 7 in 20 overs (Steven Smith 33, Deepak Hooda 30, James Faulkner 46; Anureet Singh 2 for 23, Mitchell Johnson 2 for 34) vs Kings XI Punjab

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(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)