Sneh Rana, Taniya Bhatia Snatch Draw From The Jaws of Defeat
Powered by a gritty unbeaten 80 by debutant Sneh Rana, India stole a stalemate in the one-off Test against England.
It seemed as if the writing was on the wall when India Women’s middle-order buckled under pressure, losing five wickets in a jiffy, but Sneh Rana put a premium on her wicket and subjected hosts England to a 31-over long, fruitless toil to ensure a respectable draw in the one-off Test at Bristol.
Having gone to Tea at 243 for 8 with a lead of 78, England would've felt they had the game in the bag. Although they were in for a shocker as the defiant duo of Rana (80*) and Taniya Bhatia (44*) pulled off an incredible jailbreak, adding a record 104 runs for the ninth wicket.
To put things in perspective, India were reduced to 199 for 7, but the tail wagged ferociously, stitching stands of 41 and 104 for the eighth and ninth wickets as England were left with no choice but to relinquish their grasp on the game. Sophie Ecclestone was once again the pick of the bowlers for the hosts, but none of them could rain on the unbeaten pair’s parade.
As has been the trend this Test, India lost a wicket on the verge of the break as Shikha Pandey was strangled down the leg. The breakthrough opened the floodgates for England as they dented the 72-run stand between Deepti Sharma and Punam Raut just on the brink of Lunch. Deepti, who had shown tremendous character until that point, heaved an agricultural swipe across the line against Sophie Ecclestone to chop on for 54.
Mithali Raj was castled all ends up by a lifter from Ecclestone that straightened a wee bit. Two overs later, the well-set Raut pulled to Ecclestone at square leg for 39 as India lost 3 for 4. Pooja Vastrakar counter-punched taking Ecclestone for three fours in an over, but Heather Knight knocked her over as India slumped further with their lead a paltry 24.
Earlier, Deepti and Raut had been the flagbearers of India’s stoic resistance in the morning session. Just five minutes before the interval, a swipe across the line against Ecclestone had Deepti drag on. England halted the 72-run partnership with India leading by just 6 at that stage. India's job was cut out at the start of the day, after the final session on Day 3 was washed out.
Much of the buzz surrounding the final day's play in Bristol was about Shafali Verma. The overnight pair of Shafali and Deepti had given India a rock-solid start, with the teenager even smoking a six off Ecclestone to become the first woman cricketer in history to hit three sixes in a Test. She, however, perished in the same over in what was the fifth over of the day for a stroke-filled 63 off 83. Katherine Brunt ran to her left and threw in a spectacular dive to snaffle a blinder from inches above the ground.
Thanks to Rana’s mitigation, India's lead swelled to 179 at the end of the day before the teams shook hands with just over 12 overs left in the day. Shafali Verma was named Player of the Match after a dream debut with scores of 96 and 63. Safe to say, it was a nerve-wracking humdinger where debutants shone brightly on both sides.
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