After a summer to forget, the unfamiliar scent of victory was thick on the warm Brisbane January air for the touring England team. After having surrendered the Ashes 5-0, and suffered a heavy defeat in the First ODI, they had reduced Australia to 9-244 under the bright Gabba lights leaving the hosts an improbable 57 to win from 36 balls. Finally, after months of torment and defeat, victory was finally within reach for the bruised and beaten visitors.
At the crease, standing between England and their longed-for victory was James Faulkner and Clint Mackay. While Mackay was unquestionably capable of launching a long ball, the main responsibility for Australia reaching their target would rest on the shoulders of Faulkner. Even allowing for his credentials, as the hero of Mohali three months earlier and the holder of the record for the fastest ODI century by an Australian, reaching the target appeared a forlorn hope. Thankfully for his team, and for the Aussie fans in the stands and watching at home, nobody had convinced the 23-year-old Tasmanian of the impossibility of his task.
Sensing the truism in the adage that crisis brings opportunity, Faulkner quickly went about chasing the target. To that end, the first two balls of the 45th over couldn’t have gone any better for him or Australia with them disappearing into the midwicket grandstand and over the square leg boundary. When he could manage just a single off the third delivery it left Mackay to survive three Ben Stokes deliveries if the chase was to continue into a 46th over. An inside edge saved the Victorian quick in the face of a spirited LBW shout before the full face of his bat was put to use to keep out the last two.
Bresnan to Faulkner, 44 to win 30 balls remaining.
Tim Bresnan conceded just three runs off the 46th over to increase the pressure on Faulkner. With English captain, Alastair Cook frantically moving his field to dry up the runs the Australians managed a run a ball off the first four deliveries of the 47th. With Faulkner failing to find the boundary with an MS Dhoni-esque helicopter shot off the fourth ball, the fifth loomed as a breaking point moment.
Stokes to Faulkner, 37 runs to win 20 balls remaining.
Stokes landed the delivery just back of a length drawing Faulkner into a full-blooded pull shot that flew high into the Brisbane sky. Not timing the shot as well as he might otherwise have wanted to, the ball seemed to hold in the air as Joe Root desperately made his way from deep backward square to intercept it before it cleared the rope. Unfortunately for the future England captain, he was unable to prevent his momentum from carrying him over the boundary after catching the ball. Rather than affecting the match-winning play, Root’s incredible effort resulted in six more runs to the Australian tally.
Stokes to Faulkner, 25 runs to win 12 balls remaining.
The 48th over was another tight one from Bresnan with just five runs coming from it, leaving Australia in desperate need of boundaries. Not surprisingly this saw a Faulkner attempt a huge heave towards cow corner but, despite his best efforts, after two balls he had failed to add to the Aussies total. It was third-time lucky for the Tasmanian though when he crunched the next delivery several rows back over the mid-wicket boundary an effort he followed up by putting the next even further back over long on to once again breathe life into the chase. Another attempted heave nearly brought it to an end with the ball just missing leg stump before a single put Faulkner on strike for the final over of the match.
Bresnan to Faulkner, 12 runs to win 6 balls remaining.
Amidst the carnage of Faulkner’s onslaught, Tim Bresnan had conceded just eight runs off his previous two overs and appeared the best man to thwart the Australians push for victory. Even after his first delivery was deftly run to the third man boundary, the odds still appeared in the burly Englishman’s favour. A lot can change in one delivery though because when his next ball was muscled from outside off to the midwicket boundary there seemed like nothing could prevent Faulkner from carrying Australia to victory.
This he did off the very next ball when he pierced the field to find the extra cover boundary. Having been so close to victory only a handful of overs earlier, the English team were left once again endure the despair of defeat as the Gabba crowd erupted in joy around them. Their torturer on this evening was set upon by his excited teammates as they celebrated one of the great one day international victories. Not for the first time, and not for the last time, James Faulkner was there to steer Australia home.