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Services romp to maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy semi-final, will face Himachal Pradesh

In the other semi-final, Tamil Nadu will be up against Saurashtra on December 24

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
Diwesh Pathania is here on merit, having picked up 40 wickets in nine Ranji Trophy games last season.

File photo - Medium-pacer Diwesh Pathania was one of the architects of Services' win over Kerala in the quarter-final

Services have qualified for their first-ever Vijay Hazare Trophy semi-final, thumping Kerala by seven wickets in Jaipur. The victory was set up by Diwesh Pathania, who picked up 3 for 19, and Ravi Chauhan, whose 95 off 90 balls ensured Services reached their target of 176 in just 30.5 overs.
After electing to bowl, Pathania removed Mohammed Azharuddeen and Jalaj Saxena off successive balls to leave Kerala on 24 for 2 in the seventh over. Rohan Kunnummal and Vinoop Manoharan tried stabilising the innings by adding 81 in 105 balls before offspinner Pulkit Narang broke the stand by dismissing Manoharan for a 54-ball 41.
Kunnummal took the side to 135 along with Sachin Baby, but once Baby fell, Kerala lost their last six wickets for 40 runs and were bowled out for a mere 175 in 40.4 overs. Only three of their batters could reach double digits, with Kunnummal top-scoring with 85 off 106 balls.
Services didn't have a great start either; Unnikrishnan Manukrishnan reduced them to 12 for 2 after two overs. But Ravi Chauhan and captain Rajat Paliwal dented any hopes of a Kerala comeback with a 154-run stand for the third wicket. By the time Chauhan got out, Services needed only ten more to the win, which they knocked off in the next six balls.
The other quarter-final, between Saurashtra and Vidarbha, also followed a similar script. After being put in, Vidarbha were bowled out for 150 and Saurashtra chased that down in 29.5 overs with seven wickets in hand.
Jaydev Unadkat and Chetan Sakariya's new-ball spells had Vidarbha reeling at 9 for 3 in the eighth over. Faiz Fazal and Akshay Wadkar staged a brief recovery and took the side past 50. However, both Fazal and Wadkar fell in quick succession, and when Dharmendrasinh Jadeja dismissed Lalit Yadav and Yash Thakur off successive deliveries, the scoreboard read 86 for 8.
That Vidarbha could still reach 150 was because of Apoorv Wankhade's 72 off 69 balls, which included five fours and as many sixes. Along with Akshay Wakhare, Wankhede added 64 for the ninth wicket, in which Wakhare's contribution was only 5. Legspinner Yuvraj Chudasama, though, picked up the last two wickets in the same over to deny Vidarbha a competitive total.
It was not smooth sailing for Saurashtra, though. Aditya Thakare removed their openers Vishvaraj Jadeja and Harvik Desai cheaply, and when Sheldon Jackson, too, didn't last long, making it 35 for 3 for his side, Saurashtra might have had some jitters.
Prerak Mankad and Arpit Vasavada, however, allayed those fears with an unbroken 116-run stand to see the side home. Mankad struck 77 off 72 balls; he now has 339 runs in the tournament at an average of 113 and a strike rate of 114.91. Vasavada played the anchor's role with a 66-ball 41.
On Tuesday, Vinay Galetiya's 3 for 19 rocked Uttar Pradesh before Prashant Chopra's 99 anchored their 208-run chase to script a five-wicket win for Himachal Pradesh. In the second quarter-final, N Jagadeesan's 102 and Shahrukh Khan's unbeaten 79 off just 39 balls helped Tamil Nadu trounce Karnataka by 151 runs.
Himachal Pradesh will now face Services in the first semi-final, while Tamil Nadu will be up against Saurashtra in the other. Both matches will be played in Jaipur on December 24.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo