Soumik leans back, delivers

Based on current form at least, Kerala would have assumed that Services skipper Soumik Chatterjee was a walking wicket. Other than a solitary fifty, he had no scores above 20 in seven innings, finding himself prone to feeling outside his off stump. With the Palam ground offering plenty of seam movement in the day, the going was doubly difficult. So the visitors regret would have been mixed with some surprise as, in response to their first-innings total of 314, Chatterjee's 107 formed a big chunk of his Services side's 335 and the crucial first-innings lead.

It wasn't just his opponents who knew he had a problem. After being caught behind, yet again, in his last match, Chatterjee realised he needed to do something different. "After the Assam game, I batted at the nets for some time and my coach told me what was happening. I was leaning forward too much in my stance. That made me attack those balls which are at the fourth and fifth stump line instead of leaving them. I was chasing balls without getting set and so got out early. Just by leaning back a little bit, I was able to tighten my defence," he says.

The solution was simple and instantly effective. Services lost overnight batsman Soumyaranjan Swain caught at slips early at the start of Day 2, a wicket that reduced them to 90/3, but Chatterjee seemed immovably solid. He ground down the Kerala bowlers over the 313 balls that he saw out. But while Chatterjee was prepared to take his time initially, Yashpal Singh, with whom he shared a 152-run partnership, kept the momentum going hitting 16 fours in his 147-ball 89. The aggression seemed to rub off on Chatterjee who went on to hit three consecutive fours off the bowling of right-arm pacer Sandeep Warrier. The partnership was broken by the same bowler when he had Yashpal caught in front. Warrier also dislodged Chatterjee eight overs later, at the stroke of tea, picking up his fourth wicket to leave Services 264/5.

... contd.

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