Womens Cricket: Smithies adds spice as pace quickens

England Women 329 & 123-9 dec India Women 201& 223-8 Match drawn
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The Independent Online
AFTER THREE days of celebratory weather but funereal run rates, this one-off Test suddenly came alive yesterday thanks to a competitive declaration by England captain Karen Smithies, some enterprising Indian batting early in their innings and, just when a draw seemed inevitable, a remarkable late clatter of wickets. But a draw it was none the less, a familiar result in women's Test cricket.

England's control of the game had been threatened for the first time on Saturday, when the off spin of Purnima Rau reduced the home side to 87 for 7 off a painful 63 overs.

Yesterday Smithies, who overnight had scored just over half of her team's total, cracked on to her second half century of the match and called her batsmen in when the lead had stretched beyond 250. India were asked to make 252 to win in a minimum of 83 overs, in a game where the run rate had been little more than two an over.

On a slow wicket that by yesterday evening showed little sign of four days' use, the Indian openers Chanderkanta Aheer and wicketkeeper Anju Jain hit 58 runs in the 45 minutes before lunch. In their eventual stand of 132 the boundary rope was crossed more often than it had been in the three proceeding days.

Aheer and Jain both showed a wristy touch, and they were only parted when a long, low throw from Katheryn Leng at deep mid-off beat Aheer to the wicketkeeper's end with a direct hit.

The Indians' progress had already been tempered by the interruption for lunch, and now faltered once more. With Smithies permutating her bowling options and the fielders remaining alert in the sapping sun, the asking rate crept up. Those late wickets shifted the balance tantalisingly back to England, but they ran out of overs.

Smithies was England's player of the match for her half century, which was brisk in the context of the game, while India's perky wicketkeeper and opening bat Jain took the overall match award.

Afterwards Smithies confirmed that the timing of the declaration had gone precisely to plan after the upsets of Saturday but also highlighted England's task of taking ten Indian wickets on a wicket getting lower and slower by the hour. "They got off to a flyer, which we didn't want," she said, "But we stuck to it. I think this has been a very good series, with three close matches out of four - the three one-dayers and the Test. We have now got to keep the momentum going - Australia in the winter, South Africa here next year, and the World Cup in December 2000. We've got some young, inexperienced players, and this schedule should be just what we need to keep the continuity going."

The next big match at the enterprising Shenley Cricket Centre, and the third in its history to be accorded First-Class status, is between the MCC and the Sri Lanka A, which starts on 17 August.