India Women shine in a Test match after seven years

India Women shine in a Test match after seven years

England Women and India Women just completed an exciting Test match at the County Ground, Bristol. Although the match ended in a draw, there was no lack of special moments, and Indian players had to play out of their skins to ensure the draw on the fourth afternoon. The match also saw six debutants, one for England and five for India, and some of them delivered some special performance. Even the player of the match award also went to one of these debutants.

The squads

For Indian Women, it was a special Test match as they were playing a Test match after a long gap of seven years. Their team was a mix of youth and experience. The Mithali Raj-led team had experienced players like Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur, and Smriti Mandhana joined by exciting youngsters like Dipti Sharma, Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia, Pooja Vastrakar, and most notably Shafali Verma, the dasher from Haryana.

For England, Heather Knight led the team and had a strong line-up, including Tammy Beaumont, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Katherine Brunt, and Sophie Ecclestone. Knight won the toss and did not hesitate to bat in the four-day Test match. However, it was a used pitch that created havoc controversy and did not have the expected freshness.

As the debutants shine for both teams

England had a strong start as all their top four players contributed. However, Indian bowlers failed to bowl consistently and create any threat. The opening duo Lauren Winfield-Hill and Beaumont added 69 runs before Winfield-Hill was caught behind by the debutant Vastrakar. Another debutant, Rana, provided the second blow when she dismissed Beaumont for 66. From 140/2, Knight and Sciver got hold of the match and built the most significant partnership of the innings to add 90 runs in the third wicket. The off-spinner Sharma, another debutant, was the saviour for India as she got rid of both the batters in quick succession. Sciver was dismissed for 42, and Knight was gone for 95, missing a well-deserved century by just 5 runs. In between, Amy Jones was also gone, and at 244/5, it looked like Indian Women made a strong comeback to the game.

However, Sophia Dunkley, the English debutant, had a different Idea, and she played brilliant innings batting at number six. Her unbeaten 74 came off 127 deliveries, and she built key partnerships with the tail, most notably the 70 runs partnership with Shrubsole, who contributed 47. Once Rana dismissed Shrubsole as her fourth wicket, England declared with the score of 396/9. Along with Rana’s four wickets, Sharma picked up 3 wickets.

India had a brilliant start to their innings as the debutant Verma led the way. Verma has already established herself as one of the best hitters in the limited-overs game, and she did not change her style even against the red ball. Mandhana also provided excellent support as the duo took India’s score to 167 before Verma was dismissed for 96. The youngster missed her maiden Test century by just 4 runs and missed the chance of being the first Indian woman to score a hundred on debut. However, the 167-run stand was India’s highest ever opening partnership breaking the record of Gargi Banerjee and Sandhya Agarwal against Australia.

Middle-order collapse for India, but Verma shines again

It looked like India would build on that brilliant opening partnership, but the English bowlers ensured a collapse, and India crashed to 183/5 before ending the second day on 187/5. Mandhana was dismissed for 78 as the captain, Mithali Raj, scored just 2. The procession continued the next day, and Sharma’s unbeaten 29 and Vastrakar’s 12 no other batters made any significant contribution as India was all out for just 231 runs. Ecclestone picked up 4 wickets, and captain Knight chipped in with two.

England enforced the follow on hoping for a win, but again the Shafali Verma resisted. Mandhana was dismissed early, but Verma found a solid ally in Deepti Sharma, who was promoted to number three after her good show in the first innings. The duo took India to 83/1 by the end of day 3 as Verma reached her second half-century of the match. She became the youngest woman player to score fifties in both innings of a Test match, and combining men and women, she was the second youngest, just after Sachin Tendulkar.

Day 4 started with India still trailing by 82 runs. England hoped to bowl them out cheaply and then get the required runs. However, Verma and Sharma took India to 99 before Verma was perished trying to hit an Ecclestone full toss. Then, Punam Raut joined Sharma, and the duo batted confidently to ensure that the deficit was erased. But with the score of 171, Sharma was bowled by Ecclestone after scoring her maiden Test fifty.

Rana and Pandey fight back

This again triggered another Indian collapse as they lost the next four wickets for just 28 runs as Raj and Kaur failed again. For England, Ecclestone was the star as she got her second four-wicket haul of the match. India’s lead was just 34, and an England win looked certain. But, again, India fought hard. Experienced Shikha Pandey joined debutant Rana as the duo batted sensibly. England took the second new ball in the 81st over but could not pressure the Indian batters. They slowly built the partnership and took India to 240 before Sciver dismissed Pandey for 18 to provide them some hope. India went to Tea on 243/8, still not out of danger.

However, post Tea, Sneh Rana and the wicket-keeper Taniya Bhatia delivered some glorious cricket for India as the duo ensured no loss for India in the Test match. They batted sensibly and added more than 100 runs for the 9th wicket. Rana, a surprise pick in India’s squad, scored the fifth half-century of the match by a debutant. This is a record for any men’s or women’s Test match to have this many fifty-plus scores made by debutants. Bhatia was also provided perfect support and almost reached the maiden half-century. At one stage, it looked like Rana might go for her maiden Test century, but she decided to opt for a more cautious approach to ensure that there was no sniff of a chance given to England.

Finally, the match ended in a draw later on the fourth day as India piled up 344/8 in their second innings, with Rana unbeaten on 80 and Bhatia unbeaten on 44.

This is a memorable Test match for India and will give their youngsters lots of confidence for the rest of the tour consisting of ODIs and T20Is. They will also have another Test match later in the year against Australia, which will also be another big Test for this young team.

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