England’s women embarrassingly began their new era as professionals with a six-wicket loss to India in the Kia Test match at Wormsley on Saturday.
However, this is an important result for both Indian women’s cricket and the global women’s game. The future of women’s Test cricket hangs in the balance. Only England and Australia are currently committed to the format, but this victory may give a much- needed nudge to the Indian board to look again at investing more in the female game, not least in the Test format, which India had not played for eight years before this game.
Yesterday they began the final day requiring 62 runs for victory with six wickets remaining. The pitch had flattened, the ball was not swinging and India had their vastly experienced captain Mithali Raj at the crease.
A 68-run partnership between Raj and Shikha Pandey knocked off the runs in 31 overs. Raj, who has not played Test cricket since 2006, clocked up her fourth Test half-century, working the ball into the gaps and dabbing it to third man while shepherding her less-experienced partner throughout the chase. It was Pandey who struck the winning runs, just under two hours into the final day, with a beautiful drive through extra cover.
The England all-rounder Jenny Gunn was declared player of the match for her five-wicket haul and unbeaten 62 with the bat. But this was a bad defeat against a side who have no centrally contracted players and who fielded eight young debutants.
India deserve great credit for adapting quickly to unfamiliar conditions, particularly with the ball. It did not take them long to learn that bowling a fuller length would be the most effective method in these circumstances, and reaped the rewards. When Pandey hit the winning runs, the elated pitch invasion by her team-mates showed just how much this unlikely victory means to them.