Sachin Baby is turning out to be Mr Jeeves for Kerala this season. Kerala was in search of quick runs to force a declaration and found the ideal man in Baby whose finely paced innings (93) set up a challenging target (341) for Services on the third day of the Ranji Trophy match at the KCA-St. Xavier’s College ground on Thursday.
At stumps on the penultimate day, Services was 20 for no loss with openers Sufiyan Alam (11 batting) and G. S. Rohilla (9 batting) negotiating the seven overs without any difficulty.
It was a different role from what he did in the first innings but Baby did the role of enforcer with panache and gave the host a chance to force a win on the final day on Friday.
After taking his time to find his groove, Baby changed gears and treated the bowlers with disdain. A century was well within his reach but he was bowled around his leg while going for another big hit off medium pacer Diwesh Pathania.
Before Baby stole the show, it was Kerala’s makeshift opening pair of P. Rahul and Vathsal Govind who set the ball rolling with a first-wicket partnership of 56. Vathsal (48) was the aggressor in the brisk stand. Off-spinner M. S. Rathee cleaned up both openers and Rohan Prem (16) perished to a catch in the deep.
Salman Nizar joined Baby and the fourth pair chose their attacking moments wisely to add 91 runs in quick time. After Salman(40) fell to Arpit Guleria, Akshay Chandran (20 not out)) struck a few lusty blows to prop up the innings.
Earlier, resuming at 167 for six, Services added 62 to its overnight Pulkit Narang (36) and M. S. Rathee (20) resisted the Kerala attack for more than half an hour until M. D. Nidheesh broke through to have the latter caught behind by Rahul for 20.
Pulkit then added 31 runs for the ninth wicket with P. S. Poonia (11) before Sijomon Joseph sent both of them back to finish with flattering figures of three for 15.