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Bristol Test: India’s women team fight to achieve memorable draw against England

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The Indian women’s cricket team has earned praise for drawing the only Test match against hosts England in Bristol after being made to follow-on. Their performance is especially creditable given that they were playing as many as five debutants in opener Shafali Verma, wicketkeeper-batter Taniya Bhatia, and all-rounders Sneh Rana, Pooja Vastrakar and Deepti Sharma. While there were plenty of takeaways, here are some positives for the Indian women’s cricket team from the Test. 

First Test since 2014

It was the Indian women’s cricket team’s first Test match in almost seven years. The last time they played a Test match was against South Africa in Mysore in November 2014. Earlier in that same year, they had also played a Test match against England in Wormsley, which they had won by six wickets. From the current XI that played the Bristol Test, six players – Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Shikha Pandey and Punam Raut – had played the 2014 Wormsley Test too.

With the performance against England sure to be a shot in the arm for the team, India are now scheduled to play their next Test match against Australia in September-October at the iconic WACA (Western Australia Cricket Association) ground in Perth. It will also be the Indian women’s team’s first day-night pink-ball Test.

Shafali’s debut innings

Shafali’s selection in the Test squad for the England tour had caused some surprise initially. The 17-year old Shafali is yet to play even ODIs, although she has featured in 22 T20Is, and had recently been upgraded to a Grade B central contract from the BCCI. India handed the Rohtak batter a Test debut ahead of 20-year old Mumbai batter Jemimah Rodrigues.

Shafali went on to create history, scoring 96 and 63 in the Bristol Test. As expected, her runs came at a fair clip, off 152 and 83 balls respectively. Her ability to hit cross-batted sixes has made her a T20 star already. In the Bristol Test, she showed another aspect of her game, defending and hitting very straight. Shafali hit 24 fours and three sixes in the Test match en-route to being adjudged the Player of the Match. No other Indian batter managed a single six, and England collectively hit as many as Shafali did.

India fight for draw

India were in a strong position in their follow-on innings at 171/2, with Deepti (54) and Raut (39) adding 72 for the third wicket. However, like in the first innings, the middle order collapsed, leaving them struggling on 199/7 in the 74th over.

The lead was only 34, but debutant Rana dug in, along with Pandey. The pair took the score to 240 before Pandey (18) fell. India were still not out of danger. But Bhatia (44 not out off 88) supported Rana in an unbroken century stand for the ninth wicket. Rana ended unbeaten on 80 off 154 as the pair resisted England for more than 30 overs, until the match was called a draw.

Five-day women’s Tests?

England captain Heather Knight said that the Bristol Test was a “brilliant advert” for women’s Test cricket and had shown that the format had a place in the women’s game. 

Knight was also in favour of a day being added to women’s Tests to make them five-day affairs, like those in the men’s game. "I would definitely be open to it. There's obviously been a lot of draws in women's cricket, in previous games, so it's definitely something I think that should be looked at," Knight said.

Featured photo : BCCI Women / Twitter 

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