Indore: Rookie skipper Soumik Chatterjee (34*) and Rajat Paliwal (32*) showed extreme grit with the bat to help Services register a thrilling five-wicket win over Uttar Pradesh in their quarter-final encounter here on Tuesday.
Chatterjee, who injured his knee while fielding in the first innings and came on to bat only at No. 11, joined Paliwal when the team was tottering at 54 for 5 and the pair shared an unbroken 63-run stand for the sixth wicket to take Services home. Chatterjee, fittingly, hit the winning runs, smacking a four and six off left-arm spinner Ali Murtaza.
It is the first time since 1957-58 that Services have made to the Ranji Trophy semi-finals. Playing in the plate division, they finished runner-up in the 2004-05 season. That format was however revamped to the three-group system before the start of this season.
Apart from Chatterjee and Paliwal, whose 112 off 133 balls in the first innings helped his side take a crucial 129-run lead, the medium-pacer Suraj Yadav too played a pivotal role in victory. He terrorised the UP batting line-up in both innings, claiming 2 for 35 in the first innings before scalping 7 for 71 in the second.
UP started day three on 138 for 4, just five runs ahead, with Arish Alam (33*) and Eklavya Dwivedi (8*) at the crease. Alam was the first man to depart when he was run out by Yadav for a well-made 50. Nishan Singh struck in the very next over when he trapped Dwivedi in front for 26. Yadav then made short work of the UP lower order, claiming three of the last four batsmen. Shadab Nazar, who grabbed 5 for 51 in the first innings, got the other wicket.
Chasing 113 to win, Nakul Verma (20) and Ansuhl Gupta (17) started on a positive note, sharing 29 runs for the opening wicket before Ankit Rajpoot began to wreak havoc, getting five wickets in no time. He first had Verma caught by Tanmay Srivastava and then bowled Avishek Sinha for a two-ball duck. He got Soumya Swain (10) caught by Srivastava and trapped veteran batsman Yashpal Singh for a golden duck. He completed his second five-for of the game by castling Gupta.
But Paliwal and Chatterjee mixed caution with aggression and took the side over the finish line. Fittingly, Chatterjee was carried off the field by his team-mates having batted heroically on one leg.