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Maharashtra succumb to pace and (variable) bounce

Maharashtra's Chirag Khurana highlighted the difficulties posed by the pitch, but conceded that it was not unplayable ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Odisha bowled out Maharashtra twice in 62.4 overs on the second day to wrap up an innings victory in Wayanad. This was the second two-day finish of the season; the first was in the seventh round when Baroda beat Bengal by 21 runs in Lahli, where the seamers took 38 of 40 wickets to fall.

The seamers thrived in Wayanad too, taking all 21 wickets to fall on the second day. Anupam Sanklecha claimed the first when he had Basant Mohanty lbw for 12 and dismissed Odisha for 319 from an overnight 311 for 9. In reply, Maharashtra crashed to 94 all-out in 26 overs. Asked to follow-on, they slumped to 46 for 7 in 26.2 overs, before twenty-somethings from wicketkeeper Vishant More and Sanklecha dragged them past three figures. Maharashtra were ultimately brushed aside for 107 in 36.4 overs. The 376 balls they faced in this match was their lowest of any match in the last ten seasons when they were bowled out twice.

All the same, players from both teams agreed that the pitch was not unplayable, but did pose difficult questions with variable bounce. Several balls reared from a good length and rapped the gloves of the batsmen, while some from the same area kept low, according to Maharashtra's Chirag Khurana, who managed three runs across both innings.

"One ball bounces from a good-length area, and the same ball then keeps low from the same spot. The bounce, or lack of it, was more tough on the second day," Khurana told ESPNcricinfo.

"There was some grass on the wicket, but it was not rolled enough or spread well. The sun was not out at all on the second day, the wicket was slightly damp, and seamers enjoyed bowling. You can see all 21 wickets went to seamers, but I can't call it an unplayable wicket. They [Odisha] batted well and got over 300.

"Many of our batsmen were bowled or lbw. The same ball that got the lbw sometimes bounced more, and some other batsmen were caught out in the slips. We did not have much of a clue [whether to go forward or back]. Several batsmen were hit on the gloves, and Shrikant Mundhe was hit by a ball, which rose from a good-length spot and hit his abdomen guard. He needed to be taken to the hospital, and he now is okay."

Maharashtra captain Swapnil Gugale, who was caught behind for 12 in the first innings, and then pinned lbw by Suryakant Pradhan for 8 in the second, said that wayward bowling and fielding also contributed to the team's undoing. After Maharashtra opted to bowl, Sanklecha and Mohsin Sayyed reduced Odisha to 161 for 6, before fifties from Biplab Samantray and Deepak Behera lifted Odisha to 319.

"Our bowling was not up to the mark," Gugale said. "We were up and down, and we didn't field well and let them off. That made a difference. They [Odisha] went on to make 300-odd runs, and on this kind of a wicket it is difficult to chase a big score."

Samantray, who top-scored in the match with 89 and added 98 for the seventh wicket with Deepak Behera, put Odisha's total down to a combination of wise shot selection and Maharashtra's bowlers not attacking the stumps enough.

"The pitch had no devils. It was not unplayable," Samantray said. "Shot selection was the key on this pitch, which was damp and had inconsistent bounce. We had the plan to play as straight as possible. At the same time, me and Deepak punished the bad balls. Maharashtra's bowlers mostly bowled outside the stumps; they could have done better to make use of the variable bounce on the middle-stump spot. But we made a conscious effort to bowl right on the middle stump and trouble the batsmen. I concentrated on the stumps and finished with my first four-wicket haul. In the end, their batsmen could have applied themselves better as well."