Niranjana Nagarajan stars with four wickets and crucial runs as visitors end Day 1 on 87 for 6 in response to England Women’s 92 all out
In its first game as a professional outfit, a nervous-looking England Women registered its lowest score – 92 all out – in Test cricket against India Women before Jenny Gunn hit back with four wickets to leave India at 87 for 6 by close of play on the first day of their one-off Test match.
Fielding eight Test debutants, India won the toss on Wednesday (August 13) and fielded on a pitch that barely differed from last year. Niranjana Nagarajan, the right-arm medium pacer, excelled in the morning session. With the ball keeping low, she swung the ball well and exposed some poor technique on the part of England’s batters, who were unable to get forward and instead played around their pads to full-length deliveries.
Heather Knight lasted just 14 balls before becoming the first of ten batters to fall lbw during the day, while Lauren Winfield, the debutant, edged Niranjana through to Karuna Jain behind the wickets to leave England 24 for 2. Charlotte Edwards pulled her first ball for four but she fell lbw to Niranjana, before Tammy Beaumont padded up to a straight delivery from Shikha Pandey. Lydia Greenway also fell lbw to Niranjana as England went to lunch at 49 for 5.
England has played two Tests in the past year, yet their top order replicated the mistakes made in Perth. With new contracts comes more time with the coaches, yet the same technical flaws that exposed them on a low pitch last year were still on show. Sarah Taylor and Natalie Sciver looked the most likely to take the game away from India after lunch, partly because they are wristy players. Both were able to move their feet and get to the pitch of the ball. Taylor, in particular, played some strong pull shots before she was dismissed, again lbw, by Jhulan Goswami for 30.
Sciver was dismissed with the score on 79 for 6, her stumps rearranged by a yorker from Shubhlakshmi Sharma, and Anya Shrubsole fell lbw next ball. When Sonia Odedra fell lbw to Ekta Bisht, the seventh England batter to be dismissed in that fashion, she helped England set a new record for the most lbw dismissals in a women’s Test innings. A farcical run out was all that was needed to round off a disappointing innings and Kate Cross provided it as a throw from square leg dismissed her as she and Gunn tried to sneak a second run.
Despite a big lbw shout first ball from Shrubsole, India’s opening batters made the pitch look easy. Thirush Kamini and 18-year-old Smriti Mandhana put on 40 for the first wicket before Kamini fell lbw to Gunn after scoring 17.
Gunn, who bowled straight with to a slightly remodelled action, took four wickets for 13 runs as she dismissed India’s top order. From 40 for 1, India slid to 64 for 6, Poonam Raut, Mandhana, Mithali Raj, Jain and Harmanpreet Kaur falling in quick succession. Mandhana, with 22, has been India’s highest scorer so far in the innings. At close, Goswami and Niranjana were unbeaten on 13 runs each.
The weight of expectation seemed too much for England in the morning. There has been a new wave of media interest since the introduction of central contracts and the players looked nervous after being asked to bat in tricky conditions. India hasn’t played a Test match for eight years, and fielded an inexperienced side, but its bowling in the morning – in helpful conditions – was exactly what was needed.
“It’s just a bit more money now,” said Gunn after the game when asked whether England were nervous in the morning. “I feel we have been professional for quite some time with our training and not much has changed really with what we’re doing. We’re just very lucky that we can train together each week. I think we’re in a great position.”
The pitch had initially promised to be decent for bowlers but it was the overhead conditions that offered the most assistance. India’s new-ball pair bowled better than Shrubsole, Cross and Odedra, who were wasteful, and it was Gunn who dragged England back into the game. With no swing on offer in the last session of the day, she bowled straight and forced the batters to play.
“I wanted to bowl. I think I should have done some warm-ups to get the captain’s eye for me to be put on earlier. I just love bowling and the wicket helped me a lot today,” said Gunn of her spell. “We didn’t expect to take six wickets for so few runs. It’s evenly poised and it’s a big day tomorrow.”
Brief scores: England Women 92 in 41.2 overs (Sarah Taylor 30; Niranjana Nagarajan 4-19, Shubhlakshmi Sharma 2-12) v India Women 87/6 in 47 overs (Smriti Mandhana 22; Jenny Gunn 4-13).