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Raj holds key for India Women

Visiting side ends third day at 119 for 4, needing 62 more for victory with skipper unbeaten on 20

Raj holds key for India Women - Cricket News
Jenny Gunn scored a crucial unbeaten 181-ball 62.

Jenny Gunn’s batting and Kate Cross’s bowling gave England Women some hope on the third day of the one-off Test at Wormsley, but an energetic India Women outfit was on course for a victory in what was the side’s first Test in eight years, after a strong performance on Friday (August 15).

At stumps, India was 119 for 4, needing another 62 runs to win, with Mithali Raj, the captain, unbeaten on 20.

India out-batted England – the home side will rue its first day performance – and has played with a shrewdness not many would have expected. It has been a fine advertisement for the women’s game in India.

England, resuming the day on 110 for 6, began more aggressively. Sarah Taylor dispatched a full toss from Shubhlakshmi Sharma to the boundary before clipping a legside delivery. She was bowled soon after for 40 by a slower delivery that nipped back in and sneaked through her loose forward defensive, leaving England 123 for 7.

Gunn could have retreated back into her shell from the night before but instead she and Anya Shrubsole accumulated well. Gunn has far more shots in her armoury than she displayed last night. Against the new ball, which India took after a brief rain delay, she was excellent. She drove Niranjana Nagrajan’s first delivery with the new cherry back down the ground for four, before clipping her third delivery off her pads for another boundary.

Shrubsole, solid in defence, and Gunn registered the first 50 partnership of the match before Gunn brought up her own half-century with a clip through square leg. The pair continued until Shrubsole was plumb lbw after lunch, a shin height delivery from Jhulan Goswami trapping her on the crease. Gunn benefited from using her feet to Ekta Bisht’s spin. She did not charge down the pitch but a simple step or two forward showed some positive intent, and forced the left-armer to adjust her line.

Sonia Odedra fell to the accurate Goswami as she dangled her bat and sent an outside edge through to Karuna Jain, the wicketkeeper. Gunn was then dropped on 56 via an edge that the diving Jain was unable to keep a hand on. Gunn played an uppish drive down to the square leg boundary but when partnered by Kate Cross, the No.11, she again retreated into herself. Cross was eventually caught behind off Shikha Pandey after putting on nine runs with Gunn as England was all out for 202, setting India 181 to win.

England did not start well with the ball. The bowlers often bowled too wide, allowing 18-year-old Smriti Mandhana to unfurl a series of beautiful on-drives that put England on the back foot. Cross was undoubtedly the standout bowler. On a pitch that flattened out as the game progressed, she bowled with the most pace and accuracy. Shrubsole and Odedra turned the screw after tea, bowling four maidens, but Odedra’s line let her down. She strayed down the legside, allowing Mandhana to drive her with ease.

Thirush Kamini was the first to fall, Cross trapping her on the crease to become the 19th lbw, before Poonam Raut edged her first ball to slip with India 76 for 1. Knight however was unable to cling on. Mandhana, however, registered her first Test half-century as she scored with increasing ease. She had scored a double-century against Gujarat, who she captains, just before coming to England and here she was not overwhelmed by the situation.

“We were playing interstate-U19 and I just went out and batted,” she said after the day’s play. “It’s my debut Test match and if we win this it will be a dream come true. You want to win your first Test match. I will be very happy if we win it.”

Knight chipped in as she drew an edge from Raut which Gunn took well at slip, before Harmanpreet Kaur edged Cross to Taylor to register her second duck of the game, leaving India 115 for 4. England would have dearly loved to have taken the wicket of Raj however.

Raj bats beautifully. She played some exquisite cover drives against Gunn and will undoubtedly be key tomorrow. It would be fitting if Raj, eight years after she helped India beat England, was there again at the crease to repeat the feat.

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