Palam: Services need just three points to secure a quarter-final berth in their final league match against Jharkhand, but the hosts were bowled out for 185 in 80.1 overs on Day 1 of the round-nine encounter after being put in to bat.
Ajay Yadav picked up a five-wicket haul as Services' captain Soumik Chatterjee held the innings together scoring 97 runs in 248 balls. Shahbaz Nadeem too picked up three wickets. When stumps were drawn, Jharkhand were 4 for no loss with Aakash Verma (2*) and Nadeem (1*) in the middle.
The Group C table-toppers, who have 26 points from seven games, were extra cautious right from the word go as the openers, Nakul Verma and Chatterjee, scored just 17 runs in the first 15 overs. However, credit must also go to the Jharkhand opening bowlers, Yadav and Shivsunder Rao, who exploited the morning conditions well, swinging the ball both ways yet maintaining a tight line.
Verma played a couple of enterprising pulls in a rather slow morning session. When it seemed Services will go into lunch with all their wickets intact, Jharkhand captain Nadeem foxed Verma to give the visitors their first breakthrough of the day twenty minutes before the break. The right-hander, who scored 21 off 79 balls, shouldered arm to an arm-ball which angled in to hit the off-stump.
In the very next over, Yadav sent Ansuhl Gupta packing as he nicked a wide delivery to wicketkeeper Shiv Gautam for a duck. The next batsman Pentarao Balla too departed without troubling the scorers, edging an away-going delivery to the wicketkeeper off Yadav. With three wickets down for just 50 runs on the board in 32 overs, the hosts were in a spot of bother going into lunch.
In the second session, the hosts’ situation worsened as they lost the wickets of their most influential batsmen this season - Yashpal Singh (3) and Rajat Paliwal (4) - both to Yadav in the first eight overs post lunch. Services were reeling at 66 for 5 when wicketkeeper batsman Sarabjit Lalotra joined captain Chatterjee in the middle. The duo, though played slowly, brought back sanity to the Services' innings with an unbeaten 63-run stand until tea.
The 24-year-old Chatterjee, who was scoring runs at a snail's pace, upped the ante soon after reaching his fifty in 162 balls. He took a special liking to legspinner Samar Qaudri clobbering him for a massive six over midwicket after driving him for a boundary through covers in a single over. Lalotra too played
a couple of cheeky shots for boundaries towards third man off Qaudri. Going into tea, the hosts were 129 for 5 in 62 overs with Chatterjee on 70* and Lalotra on 21*.
In the final session, Chatterjee started off with a flurry of straight drives, mostly off Quadri, as he neared his century. Lalotra, though, got out flashing wildly at a wide delivery just five overs into the final session. He was caught at gully by Rameez Nemat for 22. Chatterjee and Lalotra stitched a 77-run stand in 164 balls.
Abhishek Sinha, who came in at number seven, hit four boundaries scoring 19 runs before getting stumped to give Nadeem his second wicket of the match as Suraj Yadav was scalped by Qaudri in the very next over. Chatterjee was the 9th wicket to fall as, in a bid to reach his century with a big shot, the 24-year-old holed out at long-on off the bowling of Nadeem.
Yadav finished off the Services' innings castling Nazar for nought. Yadav, playing his debut Ranji season finished with first innings figures off 20.1-9-30-5, his second five-for of the season.