Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2018, Jaipur May 19, 2018

Canny Shreyas rips through RCB

Brought in with his team facing a must-win, Shreyas Gopal produced the best performance of his T20 career to knock out his hometown franchise

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Agarkar: Shreyas makes a case for being a regular

All-star of the match

Rajasthan Royals made all the right moves on Saturday. It started at the toss, where Ajinkya Rahane elected to bat. The Royals captain had sussed out the slowness of the surface and expected batting to become difficult as the game progressed. It was what prompted him to bring in Shreyas Gopal at the expense of a batsman, making it a three-man spin attack. How the move paid off.

Before Saturday, Shreyas had taken six wickets - half of those coming in one game - in nine matches in IPL 2018, and had conceded runs at 8.08 an over. Not the kind of numbers to make you sit up and take notice. Shreyas then produced the best performance of his T20 career to knock out his hometown franchise. Using sharp angles, deceptive flight, and, on occasion, big turn, Shreyas ripped through the heart of Royal Challengers Bangalore's batting.

He came on in the seventh over with RCB cruising in a chase of 165 - they had knocked off a third of those runs inside the Powerplay. With the second ball that he bowled to de Villiers, Shreyas found the under edge of the bat, but to his misfortune, watched it drop short of first slip. It was an early sign that the legspinner would play a decisive role in the chase.

Sure enough, the deceptions began soon. In his next over, Shreyas had Parthiv Patel misreading the length and attempting a pull. Beaten on the under edge, Parthiv lost balance and dragged his back foot out momentarily. Stumping number one for Heinrich Klaasen, and the start of RCB's collapse. Three balls later, Moeen Ali chipped a googly straight back to the bowler off a leading edge, and the bowler timed a jump to perfection to grab it. In the 11th over, Mandeep Singh was deceived by flight and sharp turn, giving Klaasen his second stumping. But the most telling blow was yet to come.

Another AB de Viliers fifty had kept Royals wary regardless of the wickets that were tumbling at the other end. De Villiers was striking fluently. So this was never going to be Royals' game as long as he was there. And then, in his last over, Shreyas gave Royals what they wanted. Sucked into a drive, de Villiers was drawn out of his crease. Another googly. Another deception. And another stumping for Klaasen. When Shreyas came on to bowl, RCB were 55 for 1; by the time he was finished, they had sunk to 98 for 6 and never recovered.

The wow moment

Shreyas' wicket of de Villiers was perhaps the best demonstration of how he got into the batsmen's heads. Not often is de Villiers deceived easily. But in this instance, Shreyas dragged de Villiers out of his crease by floating up a googly outside off. Instinctively, de Villiers leaned into a drive, but the ball ripped back in to beat the inside edge and settle into Klaasen's gloves. The wicketkeeper did equally well, too, picking up the variation and completing a superb stumping.

The numbers

  • Shreyas' 4 for 16 are his career-best figures in T20s. Shreyas achieved his previous best figures of 3 for 20 also in this tournament, against Chennai Super Kings in Pune.
  • Shreyas is the first bowler to take three wickets through stumpings in an IPL match.
  • Shreyas' figures are the best by a spinner this season and the joint second-best for any bowler.

What they said

"You can never have a set plan for someone like ABD, so I was a bit shocked. There was a little bit of help from the wicket, a bit of spin. I kept it at the wickets and relied on my googly and flipper as much as I could."
Shreyas Gopal

Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo