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    Ranji Trophy: Paliwal, Lalotra put Services on top

    After bowling out J&K for 85, the hosts finished day one on 150 for 6 in New Delhi.

    After bowling out J&K for 85, the hosts finished day one on 150 for 6 in New Delhi.

    New Delhi: Rajat Paliwal and Sarabjit Singh Lalotra batted with real purpose as Services finished their Group C Ranji Trophy opening day in good cheer against Jammu and Kashmir at the Sports Complex Air Force Stadium in Palam on Saturday.

    Paliwal made 66, while Lalotra got 38 as the hosts closed the day on 150 for 6 with a first-innings lead of 65. After bowling out the visitors for 85 in the first session itself, the hosts got the worst of starts as they lost six wickets in the blink of an eye with only 39 runs on the board.

    It was Ramdayal Punia the harrower. The medium pacer picked up four wickets to rock the Services’ top-order on a pitch that provided a lot of assistance to fast bowlers. Punia removed both openers Soumik Chatterjee (0) and Pratik Desai (4) in no time.

    Punia’s new-ball partner, MG Gujree, then trapped Anshul Gupta lbw for two. However, it was Punia’s wickets of the in-form Yashpal Singh (8) and Abhishek Sinha (11) that tilted the scale in the visitors’ favour, and it seemed the hosts may find it hard to overhaul the opposition’s paltry total. Yashpal was caught in front of the wickets, while Sinha hit the ball straight to Sahil Sharma at point. The catch seemed to have done Sahil a lot of good as in the very next over he brought one in to trap Rajan Swain for 14.

    However, Paliwal and Lalotra showed great character to combine for an unbeaten 111 for the seventh wicket in a rearguard action to strengthen Services’ hopes of a quarter-final place. Paliwal played the role of aggressor, consuming 107 balls and hitting eight boundaries. Lalotra was as solid as anything during his innings of 121 balls. Punia bowled 20 overs to finish the day with figures of 4 for 45.

    Earlier, electing to bat, the visitors failed to deal with a tricky pitch in overcast conditions as they couldn’t see out the morning session and were bowled out in 29.5 overs. Services’ pacers SC Yadav (4 for 35), Nishan Singh (3 for 26) and Shadab Nazar (2 for 24) wreaked havoc. They were so hostile that only four batsmen – Hardeep Singh (10), Obaid Haroon (17), Gujree (13) and Punia (18 not out) – could manage double figures.

    Services, who have 20 points off six matches with one win and five draws, will get closer to the quarterfinals if they win this match, and certainly after the day’s play one can confidently say that they are on course. J&K, who have 13 points in five matches with two wins, two losses and one draw, now need an outright win to boost their chances.