Ranji Trophy: Samantray leads Odisha fightback on day one

It was a gritty knock by Biplab Samantray, coming in at No. 6, that ensured Odisha would have a respectable first innings score. He made 89 (266min, 192b, 11x4) and was unlucky to miss what would have been a most deserving, second hundred of the season.

Biplab Samantray (pic) played a gritty innings to deny Maharashtra   -  Special Arrangement

At the end of an intriguing day, Odisha’s cricketers looked happier than their counterparts from Maharashtra. You could, of course, be pleased with a score of 311 for nine after being put in; that too, on a wicket which encourages bowlers.

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It was a gritty knock by Biplab Samantray, coming in at No. 6, that ensured Odisha would have a respectable first innings score. He made 89 (266min, 192b, 11x4) and was unlucky to miss what would have been a most deserving, second hundred of the season. He fell in the last over of the day, bowled by a ball that barely rose, from seamer Anupam Sanklecha, who came here after taking 26 wickets in his last two mathes.

Samantray remains the leading run-getter for Odisha, despite coming lower down the order. He admitted it was very disappointing not to get the hundred.

“Nothing was easy today -- the wicket, the conditions, and the situation of the match,” said the all-rounder. “I would say this is my best innings of the season, when you consider all those facts. I was determined to preserve my wicket so that I could guide our lower-order batsmen.”’

He did that in admirable fashion. He found an ideal ally in Deepak Behera (58, 116min, 85b, 9x4, 2x6), whose big shots meant Odisha scored at a healthy rate. They added 98 for the seventh wicket, averting a possible collapse from 161 for six.

Odisha had begun disastrously. It lost its first wicket in the fifth over: Sandeep Pattnaik’s attempt to drive Sanklecha ended in the hands of Akshay Darekar at point. With his very next ball, the veteran medium-pacer cleaned up Odisha captain with an inswinger.

Left-arm seamer Mohsin Sayyed reduced Odisha to 31 for three, trapping Saurabh Rawat in front. It indeed quite a good toss to win.

At 111 for four, lunch may not have tasted particularly pleasant for the Odisha men. They would have been comforted though by the fact that Samantray was still at the wicket.

Then came the counter-attack from Behera and Maharasthra began to look worried.

“We did not bowl well enough,” Maharashtra coach Shrikant Kalyani said. “We gave too many loose balls, though Anupam, as usual, was very tight.”

His opposite number from Odisha, Debasis Mohanty, was in a more cheerful form at stumps. “We would have been happy to get anything in excess of 280 after being put in on a wicket that was not easy for batting,” said the former India paceman. “Biplab of course played a splendid innings.”