Heather Knight hits 95 but late wickets for India wrest control back from England


England lost four middle-order wickets for 21 runs as their grip loosened

Stumps England Women 269 for 6 (Knight 95, Beaumont 66, Rana 3-77, Sharma 2-50, Vastrakar 1-43) vs India Women

Making their first appearance in the longest format since 2014, India wrested a measure of control courtesy debutants Sneh Rana, Deepti Sharma and Pooja Vastrakar as England, steered by half-centurions Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont, finished on 269 for 6 at stumps on the opening day of the one-off Test in Bristol.
England firmly held control of the day’s proceedings until the final session, when they slipped from 230 for 2 to 251 for 6, three of those four wickets coming in the form of lbw dismissals courtesy offspinners Rana and Sharma. The collapse began with vice-captain Nat Sciver employing the sweep, a shot that fetched runs aplenty for the best part of the English innings, but was struck flush on the right toe by Sharma’s full ball.
India’s raucous appeal got the umpire’s nod but England reviewed the call without any success. The dismissal went down as India’s first Test wicket involving the DRS; the same bowler and batter also having been part of the first dismissal using the system in ODI cricket. It wasn’t long before Knight, five short of a second Test hundred, was also trapped on the pad. England lost their second of three reviews as replays upheld the umpire’s call, with Knight foxed by Sharma’s drift.

That England threatened to go well past 300 on day one was down to Knight’s 90-run stand with Sciver, building on two prior fifty partnerships in the innings, making this the first instance of them scoring 50-plus for the first three wickets in the same innings since 1960. Knight who had brought up her fifty, her third in four Test innings, with an exquisite drive, carted nine fours in her 175-ball stay.

Knight’s departure was bookended by wicketkeeper Amy Jones unsuccessfully reviewing yet another lbw, this time off Rana, who then enticed Georgia Elwiss into an expansive drive with an away-drifting delivery. Sharma, diving low at first slip, held onto the thick outside edge to stall England’s momentum.

India took the new ball in the 89th over, two overs after Jhulan Goswami had returned to deliver her 17th. Raj summoned Shikha Pandey’s pace for an over towards the close of the day’s play as Katherine Brunt and debutant Sophia Dunkley, who became the first black woman to represent England in Tests, remained watchful. Rana, the pick of the Indian attack on day one, signed off with 3 for 77 in what could be a memorable return to the Indian side after 2016.
Earlier, Shafali Verma‘s one-handed take at short leg off Rana stalled Tammy Beaumont and Knight’s second-wicket 71-run stand in the post-lunch session with Knight taking on the anchor’s role at 47 not out. After lunch, 17-year-old Verma’s visible discomfort at slip as well at close-in positions had become a talking point as had India’s slow over-rate and the wearing down that the Beaumont-Knight partnership had subjected the Indian attack to. However, Verma’s low, diving catch off the disciplined Rana ended Beaumont’s stay in the 49th over as she inside-edged into her front pad.

Beaumont was the second wicket to fall, having reached her second Test fifty off 99 balls. Her six fours crowned an array of drives, sweeps, and behind-the-wickets strokes that often found India wanting in tactical nous when it came to field placements as well as in the variety among spinners.

After sending down just 27 in the first session, India bowled only 28 after lunch, despite having two spinners in operation. Goswami, the 38-year-old, did the bulk of the bowling among the seamers, while Rana sent down 29 of the day’s 92 overs.

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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