Match Analysis

From sidekick to hero: Chahal steals the show

Opportunities have been far and few at the first-class level, but becoming an IPL regular has breathed life into Yuzvendra Chahal's yet flourishing limited-overs career

While India's captain Virat Kohli was beaming from ear to ear at the post-match press conference after his team secured the T20 series, Yuzvendra Chahal looked like a nervous kid told about a surprise test. On the field, though, he had delivered a nerveless performance, posing question after question to England's batsmen. Chahal ultimately came away with incredible figures of 6 for 25 in four overs - the best by an Indian bowler in T20I history and the third best overall.
He was chiefly responsible for England's blink-and-you-miss-it collapse: they lost 8 for 8 in 19 balls. Chahal might not have been in the XI in the first place had R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja not been rested from the T20I series. Chahal's sidekick in the match was Amit Mishra, his state captain at Haryana, who claimed 1 for 23 off four overs.
Wednesday was just Chahal's ninth match in India colours. He's been an IPL regular now for Royal Challengers Bangalore for three seasons, and has been around in the first-class scene since 2009. However, opportunities have remained elusive - he has played just 27 matches in eight years. Seven of those games came in the Ranji Trophy season gone by, when Mishra was working his way into becoming a Test regular. When Mishra was released from the Test squad for the Ranji game against Goa last November, Chahal had to sit out. He has had to operate in Mishra's shadows for a bulk of his career. More recently, he has had to also contend with Jayant Yadav.
At the IPL, he was first snapped up by Mumbai Indians in 2011. He played understudy to Harbhajan Singh there, although he picked up 2 for 9 in Mumbai's title triumph in the Champions League T20 the same year. Overall, he got only seven games for Mumbai between 2011 and 2013. In 2014, he was bought by Royal Challengers at the auction, and he made a mark immediately.
He isn't intimidated by the short boundaries at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. He loops the ball up and doesn't lose heart even if he is launched out of the park. He managed 12 wickets in his first season with the Bangalore franchise and nearly doubled it in the next season. In Royal Challengers' run to the final in 2016, he collected 21 wickets and finished as the second-highest wicket-taker in that season, but was overshadowed by Kohli and AB de Villiers.
Chahal's efforts, though, caught the eyeballs of the national selectors, who picked him in India's second-string squad for the Zimbabwe trip in 2016. Chahal gave a good account of himself in Zimbabwe; none quite like his efforts in Bangalore though.
After having played the sidekick for several years, Chahal became the leader. He took the new ball but received a cold welcome from Jason Roy, who flipped his stance and switch-hit the legspinner into the stands. Two balls later, Chahal tossed one up above the eyeline, caused the ball to dip, and coaxed a bat-pad catch from Sam Billings to slip.
Roy then brought out the orthodox sweep to send Chahal over square leg, but the legspinner wasn't flustered. He lobbed the ball up outside off, again, beat Roy in flight as an inside edge snuck away to the left of MS Dhoni. He bowled two-fourths of his quota inside the Powerplay and conceded 19, a creditable effort at this ground.
"In the IPL too, I use him [Chahal] in most of the matches [as a wicket-taking option]," Kohli said. "He never says 'no' to bowling with the new ball or bowling in the middle overs, so I mean having a guy like this is great. He doesn't say 'no' to any situation."
Mishra then bottled up England in the middle overs and ended with 4-0-23-1, including only three off his last over, the 13th of the chase. England, though, were still in the hunt at 117 for 2 in 13 overs. Kohli's Suresh Raina experiment had bombed with Eoin Morgan smiting the part-time offspinner for three sixes in three balls. Kohli needed a wicket and recalled Chahal.
The move worked immediately as he dismissed Morgan and Joe Root off successive balls. His googly made a mess of Morgan's slog-sweep but it was the next ball that showed Chahal's range. He sent down a flat fizzer from the front of the hand à la Mishra - 10kph faster than the previous ball - which beat Root for pace and thudded into the pad in line with off stump. Chahal let out an almighty roar and the Chinnaswamy roared with him.
England were still in it, though, with muscle in Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, and Chris Jordan, but Chahal gutted all in his next over to round off a mesmerising spell: 2-0-6-5. Moments later, England were skittled for 127 and Chahal, holding the ball up, walked off to a rousing reception.
"It's like a home ground match for me," Chahal said. "I've not played too many series for India. Whenever I come to Bangalore, I get a vibe. I feel at home here as I've spent three seasons with RCB now."
The end may have come sooner than expected for England, but Kohli thought he may have just a par score to defend at the start. That victory was made possible, he said, was mainly because of Chahal, who has now been accustomed to different situations in a T20 game under Kohli.
"In Bangalore, I feel any total is chaseable," he said. "We've seen that in the past, talking from RCB experience, teams have chased 60-plus runs in three overs against us sometimes. When the ball starts travelling here, it is very difficult to consolidate. That's why the middle overs become very crucial in Bangalore.
"If you don't get wickets in the middle overs then any total is chaseable. No total looks far-fetched. Any batting line-up in the world can explode in the end. The key today was to take wickets in the middle overs. This guy sitting here [Chahal] didn't do such a bad job with that."
Kohli also said that the maturity shown by Chahal and the depth he added to the spin group would allow the management to rest Ashwin and Jadeja "whenever" they want.
This record haul could probably be Chahal's stepping stone for bigger things in India colours.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo