Brad Hodge could not have timed his first fifty for Rajasthan Royals this season any better. (Rajasthan vs Hyderabad match report) The Australian T20 specialist bludgeoned a 29-ball 54 (two fours and five sixes) to propel Rajasthan Royals one step closer to the Indian Premier League final against Chennai Super Kings on Sunday. Chasing Sunrisers Hyderabad's lowly 132, Rajasthan crashed to 57 for five and were virtually looking down the barrel against a solid Sunrisers' bowling attack until Hodge turned things around with some lusty batting.
Two sixes and a four from Hodge (Scorecard) in a Karan Sharma over that went for 18 put Rajasthan back in the ascendancy, and though Dale Steyn returned to trap Sanju Samson in front, Hodge and James Faulkner took them over the line. With 10 needed off the last over, Hodge slammed Darren Sammy for two sixes to spark off celebrations for Rajasthan at Kotla. (Watch: Dean Jones, Farokh Engineer in awe of Hodge) Faulkner says Hodge (match stats) played like a man possessed for the franchise troubled by spot-fixing allegations (Read: Sreesanth's no-ball caused furore amongst bookies) against three of its players.
"The partnership (33 runs with Hodge) was obviously good on Wednesday night. He (Hodge) pretty much sealed it for us. His innings was unbelievable. I have, at the other end, myself been playing domestic cricket against him but it is good to be at the same end this time," said Faulkner, who plays for Tasmania. Hodge is a Victorian.
Faulkner has contributed with both bat and ball for Royals this season. On Wednesday night, his 11 off as many balls, were crucial from a team point of view as Hodge needed support under the circumstances. Faulkner is happy he could do it. In an interview to iplt20.com, he said: "It was just a matter of getting bat on ball. I didn't get off to the best start on my first three. After I struck my first boundary my confidence grew a little bit but it was all about getting Hodgey on strike. At the end of the day he hit over the fence two times in a row and we won the game so it was a good feeling."
Faulkner (link pix gallery) has impressed with the ball. The tall left-arm seamer (he bats right-handed) took 1 for 28 against Hyderabad to take his wickets tally to 27 in 15 matches. It is the third highest in IPL, next only to Lasith Malinga (28 in 16 matches in 2011) and Bravo (28 in 17 matches in 2013). It's going to be a tight finish for the Purple Cal this season with one wicket separating Bravo and Faulkner.
"I am not really fussed about that. It is all about the franchise and I am lucky enough to get an opportunity this year and play some games of cricket for the Royals. I am really enjoying my time here so far and hopefully will continue for a few more days," Faulkner said.