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    Ranji Trophy, Round 7: Services-J&K tie set for exciting finish

    Palam, New Delhi: The stage is all set for a close finish in the Group C Ranji Trophy encounter between Services and Jammu and Kashmir here at the Air Force Sports Complex on Monday. In pursuit of 134 to win this encounter, Services went into stump at 71 for 4 on day three.

    J&K picked up early wickets to scare the hosts not a little. By seven runs, Services had lost their three wickets with Ramdayal Punia accounting for two after Hardeep Singh displayed great fielding at covers to run out Soumik Chatterjee for one. Thereafter, Punia got the wickets of Pratik Desai (3) and Anshul Gupta (0) to leave Services reeling at 7 for 3.

    Desai played a disastrous stroke off his pads to find Bandeep Singh at short midwicket, while Anshul missed the line of the ball and lost his stumps. Swain Ranjan and star player Yashpal Singh brought some semblance of normalcy adding 50 runs for the fourth wicket before offspinner Parvez Zargar had the former stumped for 22. First innings centurion Rajat Palliwal (5) and Yashpal (40) were at the crease with their team needing 63 more to win the contest.

    Yashpal, who completed 700 runs this season during his innings, now holds the key for the hosts on the last day tomorrow. Also, a lot will depend on how the conditions are tomorrow as this pitch has shown a tendency to support fast bowlers a great deal in nippy and overcast conditions.

    Earlier, Punia and Manik Gupta, resuming the day on 136 for 6, made the most of sunshine to bring J&K back into the contest. Both played with a lot of nous to frustrate the opposition bowlers. However, Manik was lucky when he was dropped by Chatterjee at first slip off Suraj Yadav for 41. He went on to score 58 and by the time he was trapped lbw by Nishan Singh, he and Punia had added 99 runs for the seventh wicket. During his knock the left-hander consumed 174 balls and put on view nine elegant boundaries.

    Wasim Raza then joined Punia and both kept up the good work adding 44 runs before Shadab Nazar clean bowled the latter with a ball that kept low. Sahil Sharma and Mohd Gurjee were sent packing by Nishan as the bowler also completed his five-wicket haul. Wasim remained unbeaten on 29. Nishan returned with figures of 5 for 73, while Yadav got 4 for 79.