Vijay Hazare Trophy semifinal: HP, Services in clash of the dark horses

Himachal Pradesh and Services werenโ€™t favourites to reach the semifinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy when they reached Jaipur for the knockout stages. Yet, thanks to the fight shown by their fast bowlers, they clinically knocked their mightier opponents out and will now bid to make it to their first-ever final in the competition when they clash at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium here.

HP last played a semifinal in 2015-16 against Delhi, while Services reached its maiden semifinal on Wednesday, beating Kerala by seven wickets at the K. L. Saini Stadium. This will be their first List-A meeting since November, 2014.

Both teams made an impact in the quarterfinals by bowling first and making good use of the assistance in the first hour of the morning, and will look to do the same. The teams have a number of recognised batters, although no superstars, but due to the conditions here and the narrative gauged from the last few matches, the main contest will be between the fiery fast bowlers in Vinay Galetia and Diwesh Pathania.

Vijay Hazare Trophy semifinal: Tamil Nadu, Saurashtra clash in battle of equals

Rishi Dhawan, excellent with both bat and ball this season, may stamp his authority with the ball, too, if he bowls for longer with the new ball โ€“ he bowled just two overs with the new ball against Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, saving himself for the business end.

A total of only 716 runs across four innings have been scored at the venue this week, and so another low-scoring encounter will be likely.

Servicesโ€™ seasoned seamer Pathania will be playing his first List-A match against Himachal Pradesh since making his debut against the same team in February, 2014. Paliwal, the captain, was also part of that team. Although Services did win that game, it couldnโ€™t progress beyond the last eight. And since then, it has never been able to make it to the knockouts.

Already in new territory, Paliwalโ€™s team is keen to make history again. โ€œThe stage is big, and weโ€™re feeling good. It was in 2014 (2013-14) that we last played a quarterfinal, and a year earlier (2012-13) we had played the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy. So there was a big gap. Now thereโ€™s almost an entirely new lot of players with us. Weโ€™re hopeful that we will continue our good run. We will make our best efforts,โ€ Paliwal told Sportstar after Wednesdayโ€™s win.

HP v Services head to head

Matches – 22

Services – 11

HP – 10

NR – 1

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