England denied first Test victory since 2014 after debutants Sneh Rana and Taniya Bhatia share 104-run ninth-wicket partnership to secure dramatic draw for India on final day
- A stubborn India ninth-wicket partnership ensured a draw on the final day
- Sneh Rana scored an unbeaten 80 off 154 balls and Taniya Bhatia added 44
- Each side took two points apiece in the first game of the multi-format series
Heather Knight was left to rue the absence of a fifth day after an impressive rearguard from India thwarted England’s bid for a first Test win in seven years.
They looked set for victory when India’s seventh wicket fell on 199, with their lead just 34 and nearly 60 overs to go.
But Sneh Rana, one of five Indian Test debutants, showed her better-known colleagues how to do it, adding 41 with Shikha Pandey, then an unbroken 104 with Taniya Bhatia.
Sneh Rana shared a 104-run stand with fellow debutant Taniya Bhatia to earn India a draw
By the time a draw was agreed at 6.15, Rana had 80, and India were 344 for eight, earning a share of the four points on offer for this one-off Test. If they show the same fight in the three one-day internationals and three T20s, this multi-format series could develop into a thriller.
The pitch offered little, and England’s attack began to sag after 202 consecutive overs in the field – a consequence of Knight’s understandable decision to enforce the follow-on.
But this was a chance missed for a team who travel to Australia early next year in a bid to reclaim the Ashes. A home game against a rusty, inexperienced Indian side beset by selection issues and pay disputes should have been straightforward by comparison.
‘We believed throughout the day we could do it,’ said Knight. ‘We maybe tried too hard to force the wickets on a dour surface. The rain on day three didn’t help, but it was a good advert for us to play more Test cricket.
England captain Heather Knight (left) and India skipper Mithali Raj with the trophy
‘If we’d had another day, what a great finish it would have been. We were almost robbed of that great finish, and I’d definitely be open to playing five-day Test matches.’
When India began the day on 83 for one, still 82 shy of avoiding an innings defeat, the prevailing wisdom was that England needed only to dismiss the 17-year-old starlet Shafali Verma early, and the rest would follow.
Verma obliged, brilliantly caught by a sprinting, diving Katherine Brunt at long-on for 63 off left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone to end a memorable Test debut in which she totalled 159. But England had to wait until the last over before lunch to strike again, as Deepti Sharma dragged an inexplicable slog-sweep on to her stumps off Ecclestone after a patient half-century.
Spinner Sophie Ecclestone took 4-118 to put England in sight of victory in the Test match
In the first innings, India had lost all ten for 64 after an opening stand of 167. Now they threatened another meltdown. Ecclestone bowled veteran captain Mithali Raj, then caught Punam Raut at square leg off Nat Sciver, whose first 10 overs cost just a single.
When Pooja Vastrakar missed a horrible hack at Knight’s off-spin, and Harmanpreet Kaur top-edged a hoick to give the excellent Ecclestone her eighth wicket of the match, England sniffed a swift conclusion.
But reviews were squandered, and the lack of a second frontline spinner began to tell on a typically slow Bristol surface. After Sciver prised out Pandey, well caught down the leg side by Amy Jones, the diminutive Bhatia continued the fight – and England were unable to deliver the decisive blow in what was a strong advert for women’s Test cricket.