Shafali Verma hits maiden fifty on Test debut vs England in Bristol

She reached the landmark with a four off Sophie Ecclestone. The highlight of Shafali's innings was the hat-trick of fours off Katherine Brunt after tea.

Shafali Verma in action against England.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Shafali Verma, 17, hit her maiden Test fifty off 83 balls on day two of the one-off Test against England Women in Bristol on Thurdsday.

She reached the landmark with a four off Sophie Ecclestone. The highlight of Shafali's innings was the hat-trick of fours off Katherine Brunt after tea.

Verma, 17, is currently the No. 1-ranked T20I batter. She had scores of 23, 47, and 60 in the T20Is against South Africa in March. Verma is the youngest Indian woman to play T20I cricket and the youngest Indian to make an international half-century. She made her India debut in September 2019.

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She was recently promoted from Category C to Category B in the India Women central contracts announced by the BCCI. Shafali's ascent over the last couple of years has been rapid. Shafali’s coach, Ashwani Kumar, is a man of few words. He concentrates on giving his pupils the best of facilities at the Shri Ram Narain Cricket Coaching Centre with support from Neeraj Dahiya of the centre. “I remember Shafali as a puny kid coming with her father (Sanjeev) to learn cricket. There are no dedicated cricket academies for girls in Haryana and I agreed to take her in because she was so persistent,” recalled Ashwani, a former first-class cricketer.

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Shafali batted for 10 days and made a huge impression with her timing and power. “I pushed her into the camps for 14-16 age group and she created space for herself. Later, at an off-season camp, she joined boys in the 15-16 age group and I realised that this kid, not even 12, was something special. She was hitting the ball harder than some of the boys,” said Ashwani.

In the 2018-19 season, Shafali participated in almost all the age-group tournaments and scored consistently. A visit to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in June 2019 propelled Shafali into the higher reckoning. Former India wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra saw her batting and lost no time in informing Ashwani that she was an “exceptional” hitter of the ball.

“Her hitting ability was different. I could sense she has a future. Her style may look raw, fearless, but she is made for T20. It is good that she doesn’t know the reputation of the opponents. Any ball in her range will be smashed,” said Ratra, who also played for Haryana.

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