The last time Odisha had dismissed a twice within a day was in 1951-52. © OCA

The last time Odisha had dismissed a twice within a day was in 1951-52. © OCA

The Ranji Trophy 2016-17 has seen its share of heavy-wicket days, but at Krishnagiri Stadium in Wayanad on Wednesday (November 30), there was something remarkable about the 21-wicket day: Maharashtra became one of the rare teams to lose all their 20 wickets in a single day’s play.

Resuming on 311 for 9, Odisha added only eight more runs in 2.4 overs before being bowled out. After that the procession from dressing room to pitch and back was all Maharashtra, who sank to 94 all out in 26 overs and 107 all out in 36.4 overs. Across two innings combined, they lost a wicket every 18.8 balls.

To some old-timers, it brought to mind the first-ever Ranji Trophy match, which started on November 4, 1934 and finished in a day. Mysore made 48, Madras responded with 130 and Mysore could only muster 59 to lose by an innings and 23 runs – all within a day.

Interestingly enough, though the batsmen capitulated in spectacular fashion, the consensus among those at the venue in Wayanad was that Maharashtra’s bowlers were equally, or more, to blame. Odisha were 116 for 5 and then 161 for 6, but they more than doubled the latter score with Biplab Samantray’s 89 from No. 6 playing a crucial role, a knock he described as “not less than a century”, though personnel from both teams agreed that Maharashtra’s bowlers had been fairly profligate with offering freebies.

“There was some dampness in the wicket on the first morning and it had resulted in a few spots in the good length area,” said Samantray, who was the Man of the Match for adding 4 for 34 in the second innings to his superb knock. “From those spots, some balls bounced and some kept low. Thankfully, I and Deepak (Behera, who made 58 and shared a 98-run stand for the seventh wicket with Samantray) had a good partnership. After those areas dried up, the uneven bounce remained. Plus our bowlers bowled in the right areas and were much better than their bowlers.”

“There was some dampness in the wicket on the first morning and it had resulted in a few spots in the good length area. From those spots, some balls bounced and some kept low. After those areas dried up, the uneven bounce remained. Plus our bowlers bowled in the right areas and were much better than their bowlers.” – Biplab Samantray

Batting first helped the team zero-in on the best lengths to bowl. “We got to know which are the spots from where the odd balls were bouncing and the spots from where the odd balls were keeping low. The aim was to hit those areas consistently,” explained Samantray. “The way the wicket was behaving, 180-200 would be a good total. I never believed we would reach 300, but Deepak’s innings was vital. He counter-attacked. It helped. It put them on the back foot. That partnership was crucial in making the match. ”

Basant Mohanty, the veteran Odisha pacer and leader of the attack, was more blunt in his assessment. “The pitch was good – we scored 300 after all. The ball kept low on some occasions, but they did not bowl well. It was a helpful track, and bowling on the stumps gave us the best chance to pick up wickets.”

In addition to the high of victory, four of the Odisha players – Samantray, Mohanty, Behera and Suryakant Pradhan (the most successful bowler with 4 for 34 and 3 for 36) – were also richer by Rs 50,000 following the announcement of a cash award by the Odisha Cricket Association.

While the Odisha team were naturally elated, disappointment at the result was evident in the voice of Shrikant Kalyani, the Maharashtra coach. “I think on the first day we didn’t bowl a disciplined line and length so their batsmen scored a lot of runs. We gave them lots of loose deliveries, and they didn’t,” he lamented. “I think we have to work on our basics, the bowlers and batsmen, before the next game. If you do your basics correctly, the majority of your problems will be solved.”

Across two innings combined, Maharashtra lost a wicket every 18.8 balls. © OCA

Across two innings combined, Maharashtra lost a wicket every 18.8 balls. © OCA

Kalyani agreed, though, that losing 20 wickets in a single day was shocking. “Yes, it was a shock,” he said. “There are no positives from this match, there can’t be when we have lost outright. As far as the pitch is concerned, we are not supposed to speak on the pitch.”

But Ankit Bawne, Maharashtra’s leading run-getter this season, was more forthcoming while assessing the pitch. “It was difficult to bat because a few balls were keeping low and a few were bouncing right in front of your face. But still, credit goes to them. They played well. They scored 300 runs on the first day,” he offered. “If you see the video, or if you had seen the game live, you would have understood how we got out. I still feel, and everybody feels, that we didn’t bowl well. It wasn’t a 300-run pitch; we gave away too many runs. If both teams score about 100, then it’s a different game. But credit goes to them also, Samantray batted really well.”

“If you see the video, or if you had seen the game live, you would have understood how we got out. I still feel, and everybody feels, that we didn’t bowl well. It wasn’t a 300-run pitch; we gave away too many runs. If both teams score about 100, then it’s a different game.” – Ankit Bawne

But while Maharashtra’s bowling was criticised, Samantray felt the batsmen hadn’t done nearly enough either. Wisden India understood from those present at the venue that while the deck was dicey and two-paced, the Maharashtra batsmen also didn’t show the gumption required to stick on.

“Their batsmen didn’t apply themselves well even after seeing me and Deepak during our partnership,” said Samantray. “After seeing us play, they should have known that there is no devil in the wicket, but they did not apply themselves. Otherwise things would have been different. They could have done much better, but they didn’t.”

The immediate impact of this result was that Odisha cleaned up seven points to leapfrog Maharashtra and sit third on the Group B table with 22 points. Maharashtra had come into this game on the back of some great momentum, having gathered 14 points in their last two matches, but that came to a shuddering halt. They are now fourth with 21 points, with both teams left with only one more match to play.

Odisha will face Jharkhand in Dindigul, with Maharashtra taking on Karnataka in Mohali. With the ongoing round only two days old, the points table could see some more upheaval, but both camps were looking forward to ending the group stages on a high.

“This is the first chance definitely in my career,” said Samantray of the opportunity to qualify for the knockouts. “We need an outright win to have some chance. Just a first-innings lead won’t be enough.”

Bawne harked back to last season, where Maharashtra’s final league game was also against Karnataka and the side had beaten the then defending champions. “Whatever has happened has happened. The past is the past and we will go into our final game with a fresh mindset,” he emphasised. “We will forget about whatever has happened in this game, it won’t have much effect on us. We’ll try to win the next game outright. We had done that last year also, beaten Karnataka outright in our last league match. So we have some positive memories. If we play to our potential we can do it again.”