India secured a draw in the one-off Test here, batting out the whole of the fourth day to finish on 344 for eight, frustrating England’s hopes of pulling off a first Test win at home in 16 years.
An astonishing rearguard effort from the No 8, Sneh Rana – who had not played an international since February 2016 but who racked up an unbeaten 80 on her Test debut – enabled India to bat until 6.15pm, at which point the teams shook hands on a draw.
“We really tried to force a result,” the England captain, Heather Knight, said. “The way we played all game, we were trying to move the game forward and force that result. The rain on day three didn’t help us very much and not getting all the overs in didn’t help.
“It was a hard pitch to force wickets on when India decided to shut up shop. We tried everything but couldn’t quite force it.”
The tourists emerged from tea eight wickets down and 78 runs ahead, leaving England hopeful they might still be able to pull off the win, but Rana safely saw out the session in conjunction with Taniya Bhatia (44no). A half-century from Deepti Sharma earlier in the day also proved critical.
The result means the teams go into the ODI leg of the multi-format series, which begins back here next Sunday , with two points apiece.
England’s best hope of securing the win came via Sophie Ecclestone, who finished with match figures of eight for 206 and sent down an exhausting 32 overs on the final day, but could not quite finish the job for her side.
Ecclestone had first dashed Indian hopes in the third over of the day, when her much-anticipated match-up with Shafali Verma ended in disappointment for the 17-year-old. Verma miscued a full toss on 63, Katherine Brunt took a spectacular catch running round from long on and diving at full stretch and Verma’s second chance at a Test century on debut went begging.
India fought back in the rest of the morning session, wiping out their first-innings deficit for the loss of two wickets thanks to a 72-run partnership between Deepti Sharma (54) and Punam Raut (39). But just before lunch, after three and a half hours of stolid defence, Sharma lost her head and slog-swept Ecclestone on to her own stumps.
Ecclestone’s pre- and post-lunch spell, which lasted for 15 overs, continued to rip the heart out of the Indian defences. Four overs after Sharma fell, Mithali Raj’s two-decade Test career in England ended in ignominy as she was bowled by an Ecclestone arm ball, then attempted a DRS review before finally accepting defeat (her match run tally: six).
The big-name wicket of Harmanpreet Kaur followed, as she top-edged an attempted sweep and Amy Jones held on to the skier.
There are no Test rankings produced for women’s cricket, but if there were then Ecclestone would surely have a claim to sitting atop them.
Bowling in tandem with Ecclestone, the Scrooge-like Nat Sciver helped pile on the pressure, conceding one run from her first 10-over spell, and eventually removing India’s other key line of defence, Raut, caught at square-leg.
Just before tea she then induced an edge from Shikha Pandey on 18 to Amy Jones behind the stumps.
England fans would have been forgiven for thinking that was job done; but the partnership between Rana and Bhatia put their side’s top order to shame.
Though the match ultimately ended in stalemate, both sides will reflect on a job well done for the cause of more women’s Test cricket: this game was anything but dull. In the course of four days, a new generation of players showed they can succeed in the multi-day game. Of the six debutants, four hit half-centuries while Verma – who became the first woman to hit three sixes in a Test – has made the format her own.
The hope is that the boards will ensure it does not take another seven years for fans to enjoy a repeat encounter.