|England 396-9 dec (Knight 95, Dunkley 74*, Rana 4-131)|
|India 231 (Verma 96, Ecclestone 4-88) & 340-8 (Rana 80*, Verma 63, Ecclestone 4-118)|
|Match drawn; each side takes two points apiece in multi-format series|
England were denied a first Test victory since 2014 after a stubborn India ninth-wicket partnership ensured a draw on a tense final day of the one-off match in Bristol.
Sneh Rana gritted her way to an unbeaten 80 off 154 balls and shared a 104-run stand with fellow debutant Taniya Bhatia as the light faded on England’s chances.
The tourists had earlier suffered another collapse, slipping from 171-2 to 240-8, with Sophie Ecclestone once again impressing with 4-118 – raising hopes of an exciting final session as England chased victory.
But India’s stubbornness ensured each side took two points apiece in the first game of the multi-format series.
Although the ending came in slightly farcical fashion, with the players taken off for bad light as the game drifted aimlessly, it has still been a fine example of what women’s Tests can achieve.
“It was one of the bests Tests I have seen – it has given us everything and anything we could wish for,” England World Cup winner Alex Hartley told Test Match Special.
“England got themselves into such a brilliant position to win the Test but they will be very frustrated.
“India were fantastic and it was a true battle between bat and ball.”
England have played positively since the opening day in Bristol and, were it not for the rain on day three, would likely have secured a deserved win.
That is not to take anything away from the India lower order, who dealt with everything that came their way in their first Test for seven years.
Ecclestone was the standout bowler for England, overcoming a difficult morning to bowl with flight and guile, and she was well supported by a miserly Nat Sciver, who conceded just 21 runs in 16 overs.
The first of three one-day internationals takes place at the Bristol County Ground on 27 June.
Is Women’s Test cricket here to stay?
There was a concern about the quality of cricket which might be played before this match, especially when the England and Wales Cricket Board apologised beforehand for staging it on a used pitch, but the players served up a fine contest which was punctuated throughout by individual brilliance.
And while this was yet another drawn Test, the attitude and skill with which it was played gave it a different feel – and made the case to make the format five days.
From the batting performances of debutants Shafali Verma and Sophia Dunkley, to 22-year-old Ecclestone’s increasingly confident bowling, the young talent on both sides shone through.
England never allowed the game to drift. After breaking India’s huge opening partnership in the first innings which precipitated a collapse, they upped the pressure in the second innings, with the fielders becoming more vocal and the bowlers tightening their lines as India followed on.
Katherine Brunt’s superb diving catch at long-on to remove the fluent Verma, which she celebrated with aplomb, set the tone for England, who never let up with the ball on a gripping final day.
India, too, can take positives following their first Test since 2014.
Rana, playing her first international match since 2016, starred with the ball on the opening day and was determined with the bat on the final day to deny England, who became increasingly exasperated as time and any potential run-chase target moved away from them.
|16-19 June||Test||Bristol||Match drawn||4 (2-2)|
|27 June||First ODI||Bristol||2|
|30 June||Second ODI||Taunton||2|
|3 July||Third ODI||Worcester||2|
|9 July||First T20||Northampton||2|
|11 July||Second T20||Hove||2|
|14 July||Third T20||Chelmsford||2|
Ecclestone continues to grow
Ecclestone, the top-ranked T20 bowler, said on Friday that she wanted to “win the battle” against Verma, who is top of the batting rankings in the same format.
She managed to win it with her worst ball, a full toss that Verma slapped towards Brunt, who had to jump forward after slightly misjudging the catch.
A 72-run stand between Deepti Sharma, who made a fine 54, and Punam Raut, held England up, before Ecclestone intervened. Deepti, attempting to smash a full ball from the left-arm spinner, under-edged the ball onto her stumps minutes before lunch.
Mithali capped off a poor game when she was bowled by a beautiful Ecclestone delivery that just clipped the stump before Raut pulled a delivery straight to square leg.
With the metronomic Sciver tying up an end, India let their frustrations show.
Pooja Vastrakar was punished for a hoick at Heather Knight before Harmanpreet Kaur, the last recognised batter, slog-swept and top-edged Ecclestone through to Amy Jones.
And while England tried, they just couldn’t prise apart Rana and Bhatia, who batted together for 115 minutes before the abrupt but timely end.
As for Ecclestone, her bowling load over the last three days was the equivalent of playing six and a half ODIs – which may explain the way her action tired as the game dwindled on.
‘This will build confidence’ – what they said
England captain Heather Knight, speaking to Test Match Special: “It was frustrating because it was set up lovely. It is a shame we had the rain on day three.
“We tried to force the result and the girls were amazing. I’m really proud of how we stuck at it.”
India captain Mithali Raj: “It’s an amazing result after the first-innings collapse. The debutants have stood up and performed for the team.
“We have a very positive environment in the dressing room. That’s a good thing for these youngsters. This will definitely help build confidence going into the one-dayers.”
Player of the match Shafali Verma: “The experienced players are always giving me confidence. That means so much to me.
“I’m disappointed not to have reached a century.”
Ex-India seamer Snehal Pradhan: “It started with Verma and Sharma’s resistance and then once again a collapse and no contributions from the likes of Raj and Kaur.
“Then the younger generations of batters orchestrating the rearguard was wonderful to see. We’re seeing different levels of batting from this Indian line-up.”