Pitch condition forces restart in Puducherry-Uttarakhand match

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The Ranji Trophy 2018-19 match between Puducherry and Uttarakhand started afresh on the fourth day, with a new toss taking place on a fresh pitch at the CAP Siechem Ground in Puducherry.

The game had been badly affected by rain, with the first two days completely washed out. The skies cleared on the third day and the toss finally took place with Puducherry opting to bowl. Play, however, began late, with only six overs bowled before lunch. At that stage, Uttarakhand were 17 for 0.

After lunch though, only 14 balls were bowled as umpires M Kuppuraj and Yeshwant Barde took both teams off. This came after Uttarakhand’s openers – Vineet Saxena and Karn Veer Kaushal – indicated discomfort when they copped blows on the body. Saxena was facing up to Pankaj Singh, in his fifth over, and the second ball struck him on the gloves, prompting the action. Uttarakhand were then 20 without loss in 8.2 overs, with Saxena on 11 and Kaushal on 4. There had been five leg-byes.

The relevant law for such a case in BCCI’s playing conditions is Law 7.2.1, which states that “in the event of a pitch being considered too dangerous for play to continue in the estimation of the on-field umpires, they shall stop play and immediately advise the BCCI Match Referee.”

If, after consulting with the captains, the decision is not to resume play immediately, the on-field umpires have three options, in the following sequence:

a) “whether the existing pitch can be repaired, and the match can be resumed from the point it was stopped. In considering whether to authorise such repairs, the BCCI Match Referee must consider whether this would place either side at an unfair advantage, given the play that had already taken place on the dangerous pitch.

b) whether an alternative pitch can be used.

c) whether the match has to be abandoned.”

Having decided that the same pitch could not be repaired, the umpires offered the option of an alternative pitch to the teams. In accordance with Law 7.2.9 of the BCCI’s playing conditions, the match had to be restarted from the first ball.

However, the restart could happen only on the fourth day.

The alternative pitch had to be prepared and rolled, and there was no play possible on Day 3. On the fourth day too, the start was delayed by 75 minutes, and play began at 10.30 am. Puducherry captain Rohit D won the toss again, and this time opted to bat, with no result possible.

A Cricket Association of Puducherry official expressed unhappiness with how events had unfolded. “It looked like Uttarakhand weren’t too keen to play. There weren’t too many balls that bounced awkwardly. And Vineet Saxena has faced Pankaj Singh so many times earlier, they were team-mates for a long time in Rajasthan. I don’t think the pitch was unplayable,” the official told ESPNcricinfo.

The official also pointed out that the pitch was under the care of a BCCI-appointed curator in the lead-up to the match, so there wasn’t much the CAP could have done.

The situation strengthens Uttarakhand’s position at the top of table in the Plate Group, with the team having come into the match with 36 points from six matches. Puducherry had 24 from five coming into this game. If the home team had beaten Uttarakhand outright in this match, it would have opened up the Plate Group table for a possible photo-finish, with Puducherry five or six points behind and with an extra game in hand.

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