Nadia (West Bengal): Bengal wrapped up what was meant to be a four-day Ranji Trophy contest in just one and a half day after they blew away Odisha for an unbelievable 37, prompting a livid visiting team to lodge a complaint about the nature of the pitch with BCCI.
Hosts Bengal comfortably won the Group A match by 133 runs at the Bengal Cricket Academy (BCA) ground that resembled a minefield. Interestingly, the venue was hosting its first first-class match.
It was pacer Ashoke Dinda who wreaked havoc with figures of 7/19, including a hat-trick, as Odisha were bundled out in only 19.2 overs in pursuit of their victory target of 171.
Bengal managed 142 and 135 in their two innings with eight of their batsmen failing to score a single run across both innings.
It was one of the lowest scores in the history of Ranji Trophy and easily the worst of the season so far in the country's premier domestic tournament.
So livid were the Odisha team after the game that their skipper Natraj Behera and OCA secretary Asirbad Behera confirmed that they were lodging an official complaint about the nature of the strip.
A fuming Odisha Cricket Association secretary told PTI, "Is this the kind of wicket you prepare for first-class matches? What is the point of having a four-day match if you want to make an under-prepared wicket and get it over in one and half days.
"We're extremely disappointed at the way they have prepared the wicket. We've already filed our complaint with the match referee and then sending a report to the BCCI's grounds committee chairman Daljit Singh."
Skipper Natraj said, "Yes, our manager has filed an official complaint with the match referee (Shakti Singh). This was an absolutely dangerous pitch.
Singh, who was also the match referee during another two-day finish this season, confirmed receiving a complaint from the Odisha team.
"Yes, Odisha have filed a complaint and I will forward it to the BCCI. I will also give my report. It is upto BCCI to decide," Singh said. A dejected Natraj, on his part, termed the pitch "unplayable".
"Yesterday, it was literally unplayable and today when two Bengal batsmen (Sudeep Chatterjee and Aamir Gani) were hit on the helmet grill off deliveries that bounced awkwardly, a fear factor set in our boys. Our guy (Anurag Sarangi) was also hit on the grill. The boys were afraid to play on the front-foot."
Bengal coach Sairaj Bahutule said that the pitch was same for both teams. "This was a pitch where application was the key. We applied better than them. There has been far worse pitches that I can recall from my playing days. There is no point complaining about the strip," said the Bengal coach and former Mumbai stalwart.
Bengal's prospects of making it to the semi-final brightened with second straight six points, but the 22-yard strip left a lot to be desired.
The pitch was left dry by curator Sujan Mukherjee, a small-time first class cricketer of yesteryears. The idea was to get a result-oriented pitch but it turned out to be surface where the top layer eroded as the match
progressed. Mukherjee's role in the preparation of the pitch will come under the scanner.
The only saving grace for Cricket Association of Bengal could be the fact that this was the fourth match of the season that ended inside two days. There were two matches involving Saurashtra and the other was played between Jammu & Kashmir and Services. All the matches, however, were Plate Group (Group C) encounters.
Such was the pitch that match referee Singh, from Himachal Pradesh, needed to enter the ground during breaks to check the condition of the track.
Brief Scores: Bengal 142 & 135 (Abhimanyu Easwaran 39, Sudeep Chatterjee 37, Manoj Tiwary 35, Basant Mohanty 5/16) Odisha 107 & (target 170) 37 in 19.2 overs (Ashok Dinda 7/19, Pragyan Ojha 3/14). Bengal won by 133 runs.