Syed Mushtaq Ali T20: Services, J&K spring a surprise

Services notched up its second win in three games, a five-wicket victory over Himachal.

Nakul Verma top scored for Services with 25.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Handy 20-odd runs each from its batsmen were enough for Services to overhaul a lowly 120-run target against Himachal with 11 balls to spare in a North Zone match of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy here on Saturday. The result threw the region’s qualifying race for the knock-out stages wide open.

It was Services’ second win in three games, tying it with the more fancied Punjab and Himachal on points but ahead on net run-rate. The result also makes all the upcoming games for four of the six sides in the competition – Delhi being the fourth-crucial for all the teams.

Services may not boast of a big-ticket name but it has several bit players who can make a difference in the shortest format of the game.

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It started with Diwesh Pathania taking two wickets – Prashant Chopra and Sumeet Verma – in a space of three balls early in the day, both failing to read the line of the ball in windy, seaming conditions and out leg-before plumb in front of the stumps. Rishi Dhawan, playing his first game, did score a brisk 27 but was the only one to cross into the 20s as none of the batsmen appeared keen to build an innings. His 31-run partnership with veteran Bipul Sharma was also the highest for the innings.

Steady

Services, on the other hand, played within its limits, stuck to its strengths and did not try anything fancy. It worked. Pathania was the most impressive of bowlers while left-arm spinner Avishek Sinha picked up two. It was a tricky total; even though Himachal kept picking up wickets at routine intervals, it also leaked runs. Every time pressure appeared to be building up, a four or a six would release it. Arun Bamal hit two sixes in consecutive overs off Kunwar Abhinay and Mayank Dagar before falling in the 17th over; it gave Services the momentum it needed towards the end.

It was only a matter of time before it wrapped up the game. Amit Pachhara’s top-edge accounted for the winning runs, the ball racing to the boundary.

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The other match of the day also saw an upset as Jammu & Kashmir registered its first win in the tournament, defeating Haryana by four wickets in 18.4 overs. Opener Jatin Wadhwan carried his bat for a gritty, unbeaten 70. His effort complemented a fighting effort from J&K bowlers earlier, restricting Haryana to a below-par score of 116. Umar Nazir and Manik Gupta picked up three wickets each and Parvez Rasool got two but the efforts appeared to be going waste when J&K was reduced to 54 for five in the 10th over, two of its players being run out.

But Wadhwan continued to shield his lower-order partners before Manzoor Dar slammed a six over the mid-wicket region to end the game.

The scores
  • Himachal 119 for eight in 20 overs (Rishi Dhawan 27 not out; Diwesh Pathania three for 16, Avishek Sinha two for 12) lost to Services 122 for five in 18.1 overs (Nakul Verma 25, Amit Pachhara 23 not out; Kunwar Abhinay two for 19). Points: Services 4, Himachal 0.
  • Haryana 116 in 19.2 overs (Umar Nazir three for 16, Manik Gupta three for 26, Parvez Rasool two for 17) lost to J&K 122 for six in 1.4 overs (Jatin Wadhwan 70 not out; Amit Mishra two for 29, Harshal Patel two for 18). Points: J&K 4, Haryana 0.