Shafali Verma’s audacity and Smriti Mandhana’s flair mixed well in a record-breaking partnership but their phenomenal effort was marred by a dramatic batting collapse on the second day of India’s one-off Test against England in Bristol on Thursday.
England ended up posting the highest-ever total against India after they declared their first innings at 396/9 but the visiting team openers gave the hosts a befitting reply with a 167-run stand.
Verma punished the English bowlers with her range of strokes in a breathtaking 96-run innings while left-handed Mandhana was all grace in her 78-run knock.
However, from a strong 167 for no loss India lost five wickets for the addition of just 16 runs before ending the day at 187/5. India are still trailing England by 209 runs with Harmanpreet Kaur and Deepti Sharma (0) at the crease.
Once the Indian openers were dismissed, the other batters seemed to be at sea against England spinners.
Skipper Heather Knight, who scored 95 in England innings, triggered the collapse by dismissing Punam Raut (2) and Shikha Pandey (0).
Skipper Mithali Raj was dismissed by spinner Sophie Ecclestone as the hosts turned the tide in their favour in the last session.
Before the collapse, Verma and Mandhana forged a 167-run stand, India’s highest for the first wicket, surpassing previous-best of 153-run partnership between Gargi Banerji and Sandhya Agarwal against Australia in Mumbai in 1984.
The 17-year-old Verma was making her debut but she batted like a fearless veteran. She missed out on a hundred but her knock was the highest individual score by an Indian on Test debut surpassing Chanderkanta Kaul’s 75 against New Zealand way back in 1995.
Verma’s 94 came off 152 balls with 13 fours and two sixes while left-handed Mandhana’s knock was laced with 14 exquisite boundaries.
Verma was her usual aggressive self as she cut and pulled in her own inimitable style. She not only presented the straight bat for defence, she also hit a six off Nat Sciver with remarkable ease.
Mandhana was cautious yet fluent. She got her first boundary when she punched one off Sciver in the cover region. When she got the opportunity, Mandhana did not hesitate to pull. Her elegant drives were a delight to watch.
Cross missed a chance to dismiss Mandhana (when on 23) when she dropped the left-hander in her follow through.
Earlier, the England were propelled by debutant Sophia Dunkley who hit a resolute unbeaten 74 and raised two crucial partnerships with tail-enders after England resumed their innings at the overnight score of 269 for six.
Dunkley first added 56 runs for the eighth wicket with Sophie Ecclestone (17) and then forged a 70-run stand with Anya Shrubsole (47). England declared their innings when Shrubsole was bowled by Sneh Rana, who ended up as India’’s best bowler with a four-wicket haul.
In the morning session, England lost overnight batter Katherine Brunt, who was trapped by veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami in the 12th ball of the day.
With that wicket, at 38 years and 204 days, Goswami became the oldest India player to get a Test wicket since Sachin Tendulkar in his penultimate Test. She also became the oldest India pacer to get a Test wicket since Lala Amarnath in 1952.
It remained a short-lived joy for the Indians as Dunkley and Ecclestone dug their heels in to test the patience of the visitors.
Dunkley stood out with her footwork and strokes on the off-side while Ecclestone was comfortable on both front and back-foot.
Dunkley completed after maiden Test fifty soon after getting an umpire’’s decision overturned. She was adjudged leg before off the bowling of Rana when she was on 46.
She got to her fifty with a couple off Rana.
With PTI Inputs
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