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    Ranji Trophy, Group C: Services qualify for QFs but Yadav sets up a thriller

    Palam: On a day where fortunes fluctuated like a pendulum, Jharkhand ended strongly at 35 for no loss in 11 overs in chase of 218 to win. But, Services were the happier dressing room at the close of play as they are assured of a quarter-final berth and more importantly a qualification to a higher group next season, with their closest rivals, Andhra and Assam, failing to push for outright wins in their respective matches. Jharkhand’s Ajay Yadav once again produced a strong performance, picking up 6 for 43, to give his side a very slim chance of making it to the quarters as he rattled the Services’ batting line-up with good swing bowling. After a delay of nearly two hours, day three started with overnight batsmen, Ansuhl Gupta (5*) and Nishan Singh (0*), scoring just three runs in seven overs in the 30 minutes session before lunch. In the second session, the 23-year-old pacer Yadav started well, scalping Gupta for 10 runs in the 23rd over of the innings as the ball kept low, jagging back in and trapping the armyman leg before wicket. Nightwatchman, Singh, dug it out in the middle, defending whatever was thrown at him. New batsman, Pentarao Balla, got himself a couple of boundaries - one towards square leg and the other between the slips - as he moved to 18 off 34 balls. Nishan’s 62-ball vigil was ended by Shahbaz Nadeem in the 32nd over as left-arm spinner’s arm ball went straight through Nishan’s defence rattling the off-stump. Nishan’s wicket followed a mini collapse, as the hosts stumbled to 69 for 7 in the 36th over after being 65 for 3 in the 32nd over. Yadav once again was the wrecker-in-chief claiming his 3rd and 4th wicket in the form of Pentarao (18) and Rajat Paliwal (4) in one over. Pentarao edged an away swinger to wicketkeeper Shiv Gautam whereas Paliwal got out, after hitting a boundary behind point, edging another away-going delivery to Babul Kumar at first slip. Shahbaz Nadeem too chipped in with the big wicket of Yashpal Singh trapping the veteran leg before wicket for a nought. Wicketkeeper batsman Sarabjit Lalotra and Avishek Sinha then combined well to shut the shop for Jharkhand till tea. Sinha was the aggressor of the two not losing out on a chance to score quick runs off bad deliveries whereas Lalotra, who faced most of Yadav’s bowling, stayed in the middle with his astute defending. Going into tea, Lalotra and Sinha added 38 runs in 108 deliveries, helping the hosts go past the 100-run mark in the second innings. In the final session, Nadeem castled 39-year-old Lalotra right at the start as he shouldered arms to an arm ball. Lalotra had scored 12 runs off 73 balls. The next batsman, Suraj Yadav, launched an all out attack on Nadeem, clobbering the Jharkhand captain for two sixes on either side of the wicket after hitting two back-to-back boundaries in the previous over bowled by Samar Quadri. Sinha too opened his shoulders, driving the ball to earn two boundaries as he neared his fifty. Yadav raced to 24 in just 20 balls as Services went past 150-mark extending the lead to 216 in no time. Nadeem brought back Yadav and the medium pacer obliged immediately squaring Yadav with a short of length delivery, which went away as the batsman got a leading edge to second slip. In the same over, Yadav bowled Shadab Nazar to finish with second innings’ figures of 6 for 43 after he had got a five-for in the first innings. Services were all out for 152, with Avishek Sinha unbeaten on 47, setting a target of 218 for Jharkhand with a maximum of 25 overs to play on Day 3. In reply, Jharkhand were off to a flier with intentions of overhauling the target and register an outright win. Understandably, a win would propel them to the second in standings with a slim chance of making it to the knockout stages. Opener Rameez Nemat, who struggled in the first innings batting at number six, middled the ball right from the word go. When stumps were drawn, Jharkhand were 35 for no loss, with Nemat on 20* and Aakash Verma on 15*.