India Women vs England Women One-off Test: Debutants call the shots

In four days of engaging red-ball cricket in Bristol, Mithali Raj’s India stonewalled Heather Knight’s England to a draw after what looked like an easy win coming the host’s way. A report card of the Indian players.

Sneh Rana (L) and Taniya Bhatia (R) of India staved off a spirited English attack on the final day of the one-off Test.   -  GETTY IMAGES

It is a little unbelievable that in a women’s Test roster, which included names like Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami and Heather Knight, it was a bunch of debutants who stole the show instead. This was the story of four days of engaging red-ball cricket in Bristol where Mithali’s India stonewalled Knight’s England to a draw after what looked like an easy win coming the host’s way.

Here’s a look at how the Indian players fared in the fixture.

READ| Heather Knight says one-off Test against India great advert of women's game

Smriti Mandhana: The left-hander looked fluent and at ease during both innings, stitching a record 167-run partnership for the first wicket in the first innings with Shafali Verma, with Mandhana contributing 78 of those runs. The match saw some of the 24-year-old’s signature drives and pulls on display. 7/10

Smriti Mandhana played some delightful strokes during the one-off Test against England.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Shafali Verma: Adjudged the player of the match, Shafali’s maiden Test outing produced 159 runs over two innings, including a stellar 96-run knock in the first. This is the third-most by a player on debut in Women’s Tests. Her courageous display against lethal English bowlers like Katherine Brunt and Sophie Ecclestone made for delightful watching. 9/10

India's Shafali Verma fell four runs of a century against England in the one-off Test in Bristol.   -  Reuters

 

Punam Raut: Raut had a laboured experience in the first innings, managing only two runs in 37 balls. She had a hard time perfecting her defence, leaving her pads exposed more often than she would have liked. However, her 104-ball 39 in the second innings suited India’s modus operandi — batting England out of the day to secure a draw. 6/10

Mithali Raj: Judging captaincy when this was her first Test in seven years might be a tad unfair, however, Mithali’s game plan was largely reactive — to the pitch, and to the English attack with bat or ball (save the Indian openers). There were numerous bowling changes, especially early on during the English innings — indicative of an unsettled strategy. Mithali herself seemed a little out of touch in both her outings with the bat (scores of 2, 4). 4/10

ALSO READ | Mithali Raj praises Sneh Rana, Shafali Verma after Bristol show

Harmanpreet Kaur: India’s vice-captain looked under pressure all through with scores of 4 (11) and 8 (34) to boot, unable to pull her side out of dramatic collapses on both occasions. Given she has quite a bit of experience playing in England, her inability to pick the lines of bowlers when they had no assistance from the wicket wasn’t encouraging for Kaur or the Indian batting line-up. 4/10

Deepti Sharma: Three wickets, a maiden Test fifty — Deepti is a player built for the longest format of the game. Despite getting off to an uneven start with a few blips in the field including two dropped catches, Deepti dropped anchor with Shafali first (70-run partnership) and then Punam (72-run stand) to help the side slash the deficit. 8/10

Three wickets, a maiden Test fifty — Deepti is a player built for the longest format of the game.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Shikha Pandey: The 32-year-old was thrown in the deep end when she was sent in as the night watcher in the first innings, an experiment that eventually backfired. In the follow-on, however, she channelled a little of what she managed against this opponent in Wormsley in 2014, her 18 (50 balls) and 100-ball resistance along with Sneh Rana laying the foundation for the rear-guard defiance that would help India save the game. 6/10

ALSO READ| Sneh Rana shines on Test debut in Bristol, hits maiden half-century

Sneh Rana: With a four-wicket haul in the first innings and a 154-ball 80 in the follow-on, Rana’s contributions were crucial in turning the result of this match. This fixture marked her Test debut and a comeback into the Indian national squad after five years, following a good outing for Railways in the Senior Women’s ODI Trophy earlier this year. 9/10

Taniya Bhatia: After missing the South Africa series, Bhatia returned to the side, predictably nifty behind the stumps after shaking off ring rust in the first few overs. She fell to Ecclestone for a duck in the first innings but put up a century stand with Rana in the follow-on to force the draw — 44 of those runs going to her name. 7/10

Jhulan Goswami: That Jhulan is still India’s pace spearhead at 38 speaks volumes about the team’s dependence on the old warhorse. Jhulan put in an intensive shift for India in this game, bowling 21 overs on a wicket with nothing for the seamers and getting a wicket in the process. 8/10

That Jhulan is still India’s pace spearhead at 38 speaks volumes about the team’s dependence on the old warhorse.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Pooja Vastrakar: The 21-year-old all-rounder seemed unsure of her body and was cautious to not exert herself too much with the ball, given a history of injuries. In State and domestic matches, Pooja has double centuries to validate her batting credentials but did herself no favours with questionable shot selection in this game. 6/10

Verdict: 7/10 — A valiant effort from the Indian side helped Mithali Raj & Co. salvage a draw from under England’s nose. However, India struggled to dictate the pace for much of the game. A faster over-rate, tidier fielding and more match practice to iron out insecurities with the bat are the need of the hour. The one-off Test in Bristol has proved to be quite the appetiser ahead of the limited-overs leg of the tour.

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