Gopal spins Royals to victory, sends Kohli’s RCB out of play-offs equation

JAIPUR, May 19:
Young Shreyas Gopal spun a web around a star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore batting line-up with a brilliant four for 16, helping Rajasthan Royals to a 30-run victory to keep his side in the reckoning for a play-offs berth in the IPL, here today.
The 24-year-old leg-spinner led a fine bowling display by the home side as it shot RCB out for just 134 in 19.2 overs after opening batsman Rahul Tripathi had helped the Royals post a competitive 164/5 with a solid unbeaten 80 off 58 balls.
The Royals opted to bat in their final league game.
South African superstar AB de Villiers briefly threatened to take the game away in RCB’s favour with a 35-ball 53 but Gopal and his bowling colleagues ensured Royals’ victory.
Pacers Jaydev Unadkat and Ben Laughlin chipped in with two wickets apiece while off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham took one wicket as RCB’s hopes for a play-offs berth went up in smokes. RCB ended the tournament with 12 points from 14 matches. They are now sixth in the standings.
With this win, the Royals climbed to fourth spot with 14 points from 14 matches. Royals’ chances for a play-offs berth are, however, not in their hands as the remaining matches tomorrow will decide their fate.
RCB’s run chase began on a bright note with Parthiv hitting two sixes in the first over off Jofra Archer, but Virat Kohli (4) continued his inconsistent run of form, as he failed to get the runs at the other end.
Kohli was out in the third over off Gowtham. The India captain charged down the ground and he swiped, only for the ball to spin in from a length and hit his stumps.
De Villiers came out and smashed Archer and Laughlin for three and two fours respectively in the next two overs, apparently in a bid to overhaul the target in 15.5 overs to better Mumbai Indians’ net run rate.
De Villiers and Parthiv stitched 55 runs for the second wicket to keep RCB in the hunt to reach the target. The South African kept one end intact for more then seven overs but wickets kept on falling at the other end. Moeen Ali (1), Mandeep Singh (3) and Colin de Grandhomme (2) fell cheaply in quick succession.
When de Villiers was out in the 12th over to become Gopal’s second wicket, with Heinrich Klaasen doing a good stumping job after the South African superstar misread the googly, the match had virtually gone out of RCB’s grasp.
The RCB tail was exposed and then, Sarfaraz Khan (7) and Umesh Yadav (0), fell in consecutive deliveries off Laughlin in the 16th over.
Earlier, India pacer Umesh Yadav grabbed three wickets for 25 runs in a superb spell to restrict Rajasthan to 164 for 5.
Umesh got the scalps of key batsmen in the form of opener Archer (0), captain Ajinkya Rahane (33) and Sanju Samson (0), and though the Royals recovered from a slow start, they failed to get the final flourish.
The absence of Englishmen Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, both of whom left the side for national duty, was felt during the must-win match.
The other opener Tripathi rose to the occasion with an unbeaten 80 off 58 balls, hitting five fours and a six. Rahane and Klassen (32 off 21 deliveries) made useful contributions at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
Tripathi’s 99-run second wicket partnership with Rahane resurrected the Royals innings after the slow start.(PTI)