Samson, spinners hurt Services
Services 87 for 3 (Paliwal 45*, Verma 2-26) trail Kerala 483 (Samson 207, Suraj 5-94) by 398 runs
A second first-class double-hundred from Sanju Samson and useful scores from the lower order moved Kerala to a total of 483 before their spinners got on top of the Services batsmen on a pitch with increasingly inconsistent bounce. At stumps in Tellicherry, Services were three down, trailing by 398, with two days still left to play on a quickly wearing surface.
Saurabh Kumar, Services' lone specialist spinner, had got a few balls to climb awkwardly in the first two sessions, but having already bowled 29 overs on day one, he perhaps lacked the freshness to really use his body and derive more help from the pitch. The Kerala spinners, though, made an immediate impact, bowling from both ends with the new ball.
Both Akshay Chandran, the debutant left-arm spinner, and Vinoop Manoharan, the offspinner, got balls to jump from a length in the first few overs, and the Services openers made no effort to attack them and scatter the close-in fielders. They had crawled to 9 for 0 after 10 overs when Soumik Chatterjee played back to a ball from Chandran that crept along the pitch and had him lbw.
In the next over, the part-time legspinner Amit Verma, replacing Manoharan, struck with a long-hop that Sumit Singh slapped straight to short cover. Verma switched ends and struck again 11.2 nervy overs later, getting Anshul Gupta to top-edge a sweep to first slip.
Services saw the day through without further mishap, with their two best batsmen, Rajat Paliwal and Yashpal Singh, putting on 41 for the fourth wicket. Paliwal, their captain, swept well and stayed alert for opportunities to cut and pull the spinners on his way to an unbeaten 45, while Yashpal moved quietly to 10.
Resuming on 273 for 4, Kerala lost Rohan Prem in the eighth over of the morning, bowled by a Suraj Yadav yorker, his third of five wickets. Samson moved smoothly along at the other end, and gained momentum into the 170s. He reverse-swept Saurabh for four to move to 175, swatted a short ball from medium-pacer Deepak Punia wide of mid-on in the next over and dabbed the next ball to third man to go to 183. At that point he had scored 40 of the 50 runs Kerala had added since the morning.
When Saurabh switched to left-arm over, Samson toyed with him, playing an inside-out push just wide of long-off to pick up two and sweeping the next ball powerfully to bisect deep square leg and deep midwicket. He brought up 200 in Saurabh's next over, leaning back to slap him away to the cover point boundary. The landmark had come off 254 balls.
Kerala continued to pile on the runs, though at a more subdued rate, after Samson had edged part-time seamer Sumit Singh to the keeper. Kerala's team selection had sought to extend their batting line-up as far as possible, with Akshay Kodoth - normally a wicketkeeper but playing as a specialist batsman - at No. 7, the allrounder Raiphi Gomez at No. 8, and both their spinners handy with the bat. All contributed, and Kerala's last four pairs added 122 before Chandran miscued Suraj to cover to bring the innings to an end at the stroke of tea.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo