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Raj guides India Women to historic win

Playing in its first Test after eight years, India eases to six-wicket win against England Women

Raj guides India Women to historic win - Cricket News
Shikha Pandey of India celebrates as she and Mithali Raj lead India to victory.
India Women completed a six-wicket victory over England Women in the one-off Test at Wormsley – its first Test in eight years – after knocking off the 62 runs required on the final morning of the four-day match on Saturday (August 16).
The historic victory at Sir Paul Getty's Ground came after Mithali Raj, the captain, scored  her fourth Test half-century, and put on an unbroken 68-run stand with Shikha Pandey (28) for the fifth wicket. India needed only two hours on the final morning to complete its chase of 181, Pandey finishing things off in style with a boundary.
It was India’s third ever Test series victory, all of which have come overseas. Their first win came back in 2002, when the side beat South Africa Women in the one-off Test at Paarl in 2002. Then, in England in 2006, it won by five wickets in Taunton, its last Test before this one.
When India resumed on its overnight 119 for 4 with Raj on 20 and Pandey yet to open her account, England needed to make an early breakthrough but the bowlers struggled to make any impact on a pitch that had flattened out over four days. Kate Cross bowled with decent pace and Anya Shrubsole was accurate, but Raj and Pandey were solid in defence.
Raj initially looked nervous, edging behind but the nick went through Sarah Taylor’s gloves and down to the vacant third man. There was plenty of time to play shots and India also benefitted from some uncharacteristically poor fielding by England. Charlotte Edwards dropped her opposite number on 40, a simple chance at mid-off that went straight in and out of her hands, before Natalie Sciver slid over a drive from Raj that raced to the boundary.
England bowled accurately but the game slid away as Raj began to play her shots. A stunning lofted drive over cover was the highlight of the innings as she registered her half-century. She was well supported by Pandey, who simply blocked out the good balls and rotated the strike as often as she could.
It was Pandey who hit the winning runs through extra cover, but it was fitting that Raj was at the crease – just as she was eight years ago at Taunton. She was crowded by her teammates, who were almost fighting to take home a stump, and support staff.
Raj is a deeply impressive cricketer, both on and off the field. Speaking after the game she paid tribute to her young team but she recognised the importance of this victory for the development of women’s cricket in India.
“Once you start playing well, you will get more support,” she said. “As a cricketer, you want to play more Test matches as it will challenge all your endurance levels and the mental aspect of your game. I’m very happy that I got to play another Test before I hang up my boots.”
England’s batting performance on the first day set the tone for this match. Put into bat by Raj under cloudy skies – she joked later that she knew India would win because she hardly ever won a toss – the side played too tentatively and allowed India to dictate the state of the game.
“We didn’t play good options when we were batting,” said Edwards. “I think they bowled well. Sometimes credit has to go to the opposition. Some of the decisions didn’t go our way as well so that combined meant that we didn’t quite get ourselves into the game.”
England however has some positives to reflect on as it prepares for the One-Day Internationals against India. The bowlers were superb on a pitch that, after the first day, offered very little assistance. Jenny Gunn performed with both bat and ball, and was almost solely responsible for keeping England on a par with India.
But in the end, India showcased its ability much better than England, and deserved credit for the way it had performed over the four days of the match.

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