Peter Lalor, in The Australian, 10 March 2015, where the title is “Cricket World Cup: James Faulkner Australia’s forgotten hero
AMID the clatter and clutter of the Watson recall, the maiden Maxwell hundred, the Clarke-Smith duet and the Dilshan four fest off Johnson, it may have been easy to overlook the contribution of James Faulkner at the SCG on Sunday…… especially as his contribution with the bat amounted to being run out for a golden duck.
Hurt and absent in the early rounds, the overriding sentiment among fans and selectors was that the young Tasmanian’s pinch-hitting in the final overs would leave more than welts on opposition skin and it was for this mainly his return was anticipated. When Shane Watson’s resurrection forced the selectors to decide between Faulkner and Mitch Marsh, it was the latter who lost out, even though he had taken 5-33 against England in the first round.
Faulkner’s bowling proved perfect for the dry but true SCG wicket that many had thought would turn. In his absence, the value of his unique back-of-the-hand change-up ball had been forgotten, but he reminded everyone just how handy it was on the night.
Australia was not in the best position when Faulkner was asked to bowl the 17th over. Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara had put on a 100 at better than a run a ball and were threatening to make a good fist of the run chase. Dilshan’s six straight fours saw Mitchell Johnson temporarily banished from an attack that featured only two frontline seamers.
Johnson, Mitch Starc, Watson, Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell had all been tried but the Sri Lankans’ second-wicket partnership refused to break or concede momentum. But Dilshan’s dash dried up immediately Faulkner was given the ball. Two back-of-the-hand balls in the first over had him and Sangakkara second guessing. The first two overs went for just six and in the third he deceived Dilshan with the same delivery, trapping him in front.
Sangakkara, however, ploughed on regardless but it was Faulkner who finally ended his innings (although not before the batsman had brought up his 14,000th one-day run and his third consecutive century of the World Cup).
Faulkner finished with 3-48 off nine overs, knocking over Upal Tharanga in the mop-up operation. The allrounder’s return, along with Watson’s success with the bat, make grim reading for Marsh, who appears to have no way back in to this XI if everyone stays fit. Doherty will come and go depending on the pitch and change places with Pat Cummins if he is fit or, if not, Josh Hazlewood. The rest of the side appears to have settled after a few tumultuous and confusing weeks.
Faulkner flew home to Tasmania yesterday as part of an advance party for the game against Scotland this Sunday. Launcestonian by birth, he will spend time catching up with his family before the rest of the team arrives tomorrow.
A side strain from the tri-series final kept Faulkner out of the early rounds of the World Cup and while he was considered fit enough to return against Afghanistan in Perth, he only bowled four overs. Getting through a few more against Sri Lanka eased his mind.
“I’ve been fortunate the way they’ve looked after me, they’ve given me every chance to get back,” Faulkner said. “I’d be lying to say it wasn’t a relief to get through nine overs last night . “I was confident I was going to get through my 10 overs but it was nice to ease back in with four overs against Afghanistan and then get a solid performance in yesterday. Hopefully come crunch time I can put some performances on the board. (But) if we’re winning I’m not too fussed how I’m going personally.”
Australia look to have locked up second place behind New Zealand if they beat the winless Scotland in Hobart on Sunday, which means they play either Ireland, Pakistan or South Africa in the Adelaide Oval quarter-final.
Faulkner insists the side will be treating the Scots with respect. “It’s a World Cup. You play teams from all around the world in different conditions. We can’t take them lightly,” he said. “I think last time we played here it was a pretty solid wicket, so we’re expecting a lot of runs. So far in the tournament, it’s been no surprise that so many runs have been scored and the pitches have been pretty consistent.’’