New Delhi: Services put up a spirited show on the fifth day of the second Ranji Trophy semi-final against 39-time champions Mumbai by reaching 164 for 3 at stumps in response to the visitors first innings total of 454 for 8. The match is evenly balanced at this point with all three results - Mumbai taking the lead, Services taking the lead, and the toss - possible on the last day. As per the rule, the match is extended to the sixth day and if still the first innings of both teams remain uncompleted, the outcome of the match will be decided by the toss.
After two consecutive days went by without a ball being bowled, the match started late on Sunday due to the damp pitch and play didn't start in first session. The play underwent from 12:15 pm and Ajit Agarkar biffed the first ball of the day over mid on for a boundary. Shadab Nazar was the bowler. In the next over, Agarkar tonked Nishan Singh for a six over long on and Aditya Tare cracked a straight boundary as Mumbai reached 400 in 145 overs.
Agarkar continued to sizzle as he hooked Nazar for a boundary to fine leg but Tare perished after making 120 in an attempt to garner quick runs. He flashed at the delivery from Nazar which was outside the off stump and got a thick edge to the wicketkeeper. He scored a plucky 120 off 337 balls. Agarkar fell soon after making 145 as he pulled the short ball from Avishek Sin ha, who replaced N Singh, straight to deep midwicket.
Dhawal Kulkarni blasted a few lusty blows and raced to 20 off 12 balls before Mumbai declared their first innings at 454 for 8 in 152 overs. Shardul Thakur remained unbeaten on 10.
Nakul Verma and Pratik Desai opened the innings for Services and Verma struck two boundaries in the first over off Agarkar - steer to third man boundary and pull to deep square leg. Then both the batsmen became extremely stodgy and seven consecutive maiden overs (46 dot balls) followed. Verma carved Agarkar through cover to break the fetters but he soon bit the dust. He played back to Kulkarni's delivery which cut back and trapped him in front of the stumps.
Desai was dreadfully scratchy and survived a couple of close lbw shouts. He was beaten umpteen times outside the off stump and looked completely ill at ease. His torturous stay at the crease was ended by Ankeet Chavan in his third over. The batsman yorked himself and was cleaned up. He gouged out just 4 runs off 50 balls. Meanwhile Anshul Gupta played some fine shots - a square drive off S Thakur and a cut off Chavan to deep backward point boundary - and moved into the 20s. He was dropped by Hiken Shah at forward shot leg off Vishal Dabholkar when he was batting at 23. He couldn't kick on and fell to S Thakur for 31, which came off 71 balls, while driving on the rise. Kaustubh Pawar at third slip took a simple catch.
Services' stand-in skipper Soumya Swain oozed confidence and elegance. He unfurled a string of gorgeous shots and looked the most fluent batsman of the day. He played a sublime flick through midwicket to get his first boundary and was particularly strong on the leg side. He reached his half-century through a splendid flick to deep square leg. Yaspal Singh too shone and looked in fine touch. He belted Kulkarni through cover to notch up his first boundary and later smashed Dabholkar to midwicket and deep backward point boundaries.
They both have compiled an unbroken 92-run stand for the fourth wicket to give Services a fair chance to overhaul Mumbai's first innings total of 454 for 8 on Monday and reach the Ranji Trophy final for the first time after a hiatus of 55 years. The last time they reached final was in 1957-58 where they lost to Mumbai.
The winner of the second semi-final will meet Saurashtra in the final who defeated Punjab in the first semi-final by 229 runs on Sunday.