Captain Anshul Gupta’s unbeaten 52 saved Services the blushes on the opening day of its Ranji Trophy Group C match against Kerala at the Karnail Singh Stadium in New Delhi on Wednesday. At stumps on a truncated opening day, Services was 103 for four.

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Earlier, Kerala won the toss and chose to bowl first. The start however was delayed by fog and it was only after lunch that the first ball could be bowled.

For Kerala, the new ball was shared by Sandep Warrier and debutant Athif Bin Ashraf. It proved a memorable debut for Athif, as he picked up three wickets in his opening spell.

The 19-year-old medium-pacer from Thrissur trapped opener Nikhil Verma in front in his fourth over. Then he won an another lbw appeal, against Ravi Chauhan, and had Amit Pachchara caught behind. Services slumped to 20 for three.

Kerala’s third seamer Basil Thampi soon added to Services’ woes when he clean bowled Irfan khan. At 43 for four, Services was in considerable trouble.

But Anshul found an ally in Shamsher Yadav (23 not out). They ensured no further was damage was done and added 60 for the unbroken fifth wicket before bad light brought an early close to the day’s play.

Athif said Kerala was still hopeful of dismissing Services for a low first-innings total. “The conditions are helpful for pace bowlers,” he told Sportstar . “We should be able to get some assistance on the second day too.”

He said he was not expecting to make his debut in the match. “It was a pleasant surprise when I was told in the morning that I would be playing the match,” he said. “And I was glad that I could share the new ball with Sandeep. He and Basil both bowled very tightly and that helped me take the wickets.”