Spirited Services stun UP to enter semi-finals
Services 263 (Paliwal 112, Rajpoot 5-61) and 116 for 5
(Chatterjee 34*, Paliwal 32*, Rajpoot 5-36) beat Uttar Pradesh 134
(Imtiaz 53*, Nazar 5-51) and 241 (Srivastava 54, Alam 50, Yadav 7-71) by
Soumik Chatterjee, the Services captain, unable to walk with a badly injured left knee, dragged himself out at 54 for 5 in a chase of 113. He went on to pull the rampaging Uttar Pradesh fast bowlers for fours and sixes. He hopped on one good leg from one end of the pitch to the other for several singles. Fittingly, he stepped out to loft Ali Murtaza over mid-on to end the match. Uttar Pradesh, the best side of the Ranji league stage, had been beaten by the promoted toppers from a humble Group C before tea on the third afternoon of the five-day quarter-final.
While Chatterjee's brave effort made him the star of the chase, fast bowler Suraj Yadav, with a career-best haul of 7 for 71 in UP's second innings, and Rajat Paliwal, with a century in Services' first innings and an unbeaten 32 in the chase, were the chief architects of the win.
For UP, they will look back to the moment early this morning when their last specialist batsman Arish Alam, backing up at the non-striker's end, was caught short of the crease by an Eklavya Dwivedi drive that burst out through the bowler Yadav's hands. Alam and Dwivedi had batted without bother till then, and had already added 33 for the day in just under seven overs.
Alam had just reached his 50, and his fall took most of the fight out of UP. Dwivedi was trapped leg-before next over by Nishan Singh. Piyush Chawla flailed a pitched-up delivery straight to first slip, exactly the same way he had fallen in the first innings. During his short stay, he had already been caught in the same manner, off a Yadav no-ball.
Strongly-built fast bowler Imtiaz Ahmed fought back, like he had in the first innings, with calm hitting that would have done a specialist batsman proud. Even as Services posted eight men on the boundary, Imtiaz nonchalantly swung four sixes over them.
He also started to protect the No. 11 Sudeep Tyagi, but Yadav needed just the one delivery in the 78th over to flatten Tyagi's off stump.
Services needed just 113, but Ankit Rajpoot, the young UP fast bowler, was to make it really hard for them. After Nakul Verma started brightly with a few fours, Rajpoot started striking. Soon after lunch, Services slumped from 29 for 0 in the eighth over to 54 for 5 in the 14th.
Verma was caught at gully after a slash was fended away by one of the slips, Avishek Sinha was bowled trying to work it to leg, Soumya Swain hit it low to gully, Yashpal Singh went lbw first ball pushing forward, and Anshul Gupta lost his off stump on the defensive push.
Services, full of spirit and bravado but lacking in big-match experience, were still 59 short. In walked Chatterjee, and slowly, the game swung again Services' way. He would wait a bit till he was certain he could make it across for a single, and then drag, limp and hop his way along. He would push his fit right leg forward, cover the line of the delivery, and defend it if it was on the stumps, or let it go by holding the bat inside the line.
Paliwal, solid at the other end, steered Imtiaz over the cordon for four to ease some of the pressure. Chatterjee summoned enough strength to pull Rajpoot over square leg for four on one leg. He bettered it by pulling Tyagi for six, and Paliwal slog-swept Chawla in his only over for six over deep midwicket. The hundred or so spectators cheered every Services run, as did their dressing room. About an hour after he had slowly made his way to the middle, Chatterjee was holding his arms out to his rushing team-mates. UP had been unbeaten through the league stage, and it had taken something special from an injured captain to bring them down.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo