Abhishek Hegde struck a dour second-innings century as Kerala settled for one point with a draw against hosts Services at Palam on Tuesday. The visitors declared at 193 for 3 in 77 overs to set Services an impossible target of 173, and their makeshift opening pair of Nakul Verma and Ansuhl Gupta compiled a stand of 85 in 15 overs before the match was mutually called off.
Services took three points from the match, courtesy their first-innings lead, to move level with Group C leaders Assam on 17 points – though they sit at second place with a difference of run-rate.
Resuming their overnight score of 9 for no loss, Kerala were off to a awful start. Services speedster Suraj Yadav struck two early jolts in the first session, dismissing VA Jagadeesh - who was stranded on 199 in the first innings - and Sanju Samson cheaply. Jagadeesh scored just 10 before giving an easy catch to wicketkeeper Sarabjit Singh, while Samson failed to read an outside-the-off-stump delivery and gave a catch to Saumya Swain at gully.
Hegde dug deep and collected the second century of his first-class career, off 215 balls with 11 boundaries. His first came in the last game against Assam. Hegde stitched a vital 110-run partnership with skipper Rohan Prem, who made an unbeaten 53, as Kerala declared with a lead of 172.
Chasing that unattainable target in 15 overs, Services got off to a sturdy start as Gupta and Verma took the score past 50 runs in just 10 overs. Gupta hit Prem for two consecutive boundaries in the fifth over and reached his fifty in just 33 balls with the help of five fours and two gigantic sixes. For Kerala, Prem was the most the most expensive with a spell of 0 for 53 in six overs.
Services will face Goa in their next match while Kerala will take on Jammu & Kashmir in round six starting December 8.