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Bristol Test: Indian Women Shine to Hold Back England in an Epic Test Battle

The one-off Test between Indian Women and England Women held at Bristol might have ended in a draw, but it was full of twists and turns as both teams fought it out until the last over of the match. After suffering a humiliating collapse in their first innings, Indian women rallied spectacularly to eke out a draw from the jaws of defeat. Sneh Rana and Taniya Bhatia put on an undefeated ninth-wicket partnership of 104 runs to save the match for India.

Here’s our review of the one-off test between Indian Women and England Women held at Bristol:

ENGLAND MAKE A STRONG START

England won the toss and chose to bat on a used pitch at Bristol, and they made a strong start to the game. Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield Hill put on a 69-run opening partnership for England when Pooja Vastrakar struck to break the pair. Captain Heather Knight joined Beaumont first and Natalie Sciver later to put on two huge partnerships for England, scoring 95 runs. It was the turn of debutant Sophia Dunkley to extend England’s dominance of the game with an unbeaten 74, as they took their innings well into Day 2 before they declared at 396-9 on Day 2.

SHAFALI VERMA SHINES ON DEBUT

Shafali Verma set a record as the second-youngest player to debut for India in Test cricket, just behind legend Sachin Tendulkar. She reposed the faith shown in her by selectors by scoring fifties in both innings, including a heart-breaking 96 from 152 balls in the first innings. She became the first woman Test cricketer to achieve that feat, both for India and across the world. Verma’s first innings featured classic Test match batting – respecting the new ball while waiting for the right ball. Her first innings featured 13 fours and two sixes, while her second innings featured 11 fours and a six.

Smriti Mandhana gave strong support to the young debutant, as the pair put on a 167-run partnership, the highest for Indian women in Tests, and the fourth-highest overall. The pair contributed 72.29% of the runs that Indian women put on in the first innings.

INDIA’S MIDDLE-ORDER CRUMBLE

After putting on a good opening partnership, Indian Women emulated their male counterparts to produce a collapse that resembled the 36-all-out collapse that Virat Kohli’s men had suffered at Adelaide. 64 runs separated the fall of the first wicket and the tenth, with Deepti Sharma’s 29 runs being the only saving grace. Heather Knight and Sophie Ecclestone pounced on the wickets late on Day 2 – they lost seven wickets for 20 runs in a span of 14.2 overs. India had to contend with 231 runs, well within the follow-on margin and the Test looked like it would be going England’s way.

England enforced the follow-on in a push for victory, and English bowlers struck early, with Katherine Brunt taking out Smriti Mandhana cheaply. Deepti Sharma was promoted to the third spot, and together with Shefali Verma put on a 70-run partnership for India, saving the Test match from becoming a one-sided show. Sophie Ecclestone was the star of England’s attack and took eight wickets in the match.

SNEH RANA EMULATES RAHUL DRAVID

India lost both their captain Mithali Raj and veteran Harmanpreet Kaur cheaply, and with the scoreboard at 199-7, the match looked like a sure victory for England. Sneh Rana, playing in her first international outing since February 2016, overcame personal tragedy and injury to put on a classic Test batting performance that would make Rahul Dravid proud. After taking four wickets in the first innings, Rana’s unbeaten 80 off 154 balls proved to be the decisive factor in securing a draw for India, even as wickets fell on the other end. She combined with Shikha Pandey and wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatiya to pull off a miraculous draw for the Indians.

CASE FOR MORE WOMEN’S TEST CRICKET

Just as the India-Australia series and the World Test Championship have reignited the popularity of Test cricket among Indian fans, the one-off Test proved to be a thriller, providing a case for more Test cricket to be played by Indian women. India’s fightback after being forced into a follow-on showed the reason why Test cricket is considered the classic format of the game – a game full of ups and downs and required immense grit and composure. More Test encounters between women will surely grow the game and take it to new heights.

Shefali Verma, the 17-year-old debutant who made the most impact among India’s batters, was awarded Player of the Match for her heroic opening stands, but Sneh Rana comes a close second for her match-saving innings.