India 187 for 5 (Verma 96, Mandhana 78) trail England 396 for 9 dec (Dunkley 74*, Shrubsole 47) by 209 runs
"Fearless" was how Nat Sciver had described the likes of Shafali Verma in the lead-up to this match and so it proved. Verma's stellar debut Test innings of 96 at the age of just 17 set India on course to overhaul England's imposing 396 for 9 declared before a flurry of late wickets put the hosts in control once again.
Verma and Smriti Mandhana put on an opening stand of 167 - India Women's highest in Tests - before they lost 5 for 16 to be 187 for 5 at the close on the second day, still 209 runs in arrears.
On a slow pitch offering no pace or bounce for the seamers and with only one frontline spinner in operation, England's captain, Heather Knight, brought herself into the attack after both openers had been accounted for and ended the day with figures of 2 for 1 from six overs (including five maidens) with her part-time offspin.
Verma was barely seven months old when Katherine Brunt made her Test debut as a teenager herself in August 2004 and was just 10 the last time India played a Test match. But since her international debut against South Africa in 2019 - the first of 22 T20Is in her fledgling career so far - Verma seems to have taken most things in her stride.
She bounced back from a disappointing T20 World Cup final in which she managed to score just 2 and put down a catch off Alyssa Healy to provide a rare bright spot in India's 2-1 T20 series defeat in March with scores of 23, 47 and 60.
Looking uncomfortable fielding in the slips and in close on the opening day of this match, she gutsed it out and took a stunner at short leg to remove dangerous England opener Tammy Beaumont for 66.
Then on the second day, with England having declared on their sixth-highest Test total she compiled an innings of composure and maturity.
That she fell within one glorious boundary - her innings had contained 15 in all including two commanding sixes - was of course deflating for the player and most onlookers regardless of their loyalties. But it needn't have been.
In stroking her way through the afternoon and evening, she treated another small but enthusiastic crowd as well as those watching live on TV to a wonderful show. She had three fours to her name before she muscled Sciver over the rope at long-off before tea then she heaved Sophie Ecclestone over midwicket for four to bring up her half-century before clubbing the same bowler over long-on for a maximum.
Putting age aside, which is difficult in this story, Verma also posted the highest score by an Indian woman on Test debut.
It wasn't all big shots, Verma mischieviously steering Kate Cross through third man for another boundary, but she finally fell three balls later, going for the big one against Cross and picking out Anya Shrubsole at mid-off.
Mandhana's knock was eye-catching also with 14 boundaries including a lovely pull off Brunt into the gap between deep backward square and fine leg to bring up her fifty. She had survived on 23 late in the afternoon session when Cross got her hand to Mandhana's firmly-struck shot on her follow-through but was unable to cling on, and she received another life on 41 when Brunt found a faint outside edge that was missed by keeper Amy Jones.
Mandhana was let off again on 51 when she struck a low full toss off Anya Shrubsole straight to cover where Sophia Dunkley spilled the chance but she eventually fell for 78, hoisting Sciver down the ground to mid-on where Brunt was waiting with safe hands.
Knight accounted for nightwatchman Shikha Pandey, caught and bowled for nought, and Punam Raut, lbw for 2, either side of Ecclestone's dismissal of Mithali Raj, caught by Tammy Beaumont at short leg for 2. If Harmanpreet Kaur had not successfully reviewed an lbw decision - the DRS picked up a clear inside edge - in the final over of the day, India would have been in even more trouble.
Another debutant, the only one for England compared with India's five, Dunkley produced the story of the morning when she reached an unbeaten 74 to kick the home side along from their overnight 269 for 6.
Play resumed under overcast skies with the floodlights and Jhulan Goswami struck with the 12th ball of the morning when she trapped Brunt lbw for 7. India reviewed after the appeal was initially turned down, and were vindicated, replays showing the ball hitting pad first and ball-tracking taking it on to middle stump.
Dunkley, the first black woman to play Test cricket for England, resumed on 12, and settled into a good rhythm by sending Goswami to the fence twice in the space of three balls with a wristy club through midwicket and a deft placement between third slip and gully.
Dropped on 27 when she sent a simple return catch to Deepti Sharma, Dunkley brought up a fifty partnership with Ecclestone through a boundary off Sneh Rana, moving to within sight of her half-century in doing so.
Two balls later, however, Dunkley had to overturn umpire Sue Redfern's lbw decision off Rana to avoid departing on 46, with replays showing the ball missing leg stump, and she brought up the milestone soon after.
Ecclestone had an almost identical lbw decision by umpire Chris Watts overturned, with Sharma's delivery shown to be missing leg stump, but there was no doubt two balls later when she spooned Sharma straight to Pandey at mid-on for 17. It was Sharma's third wicket and she ended the innings with 3 for 65, Rana taking 4 for 131.
Some rapid-fire big-hitting by Shrubsole pushed England's total up during the first half-hour of the afternoon session. She took just 14 balls to move from her lunchtime score of 16 to 47 before she was bowled by Rana, prompting the declaration.
Shrubsole had scored 17 of the 18 runs to come off one Rana over - the second after lunch - with back-to-back fours hammered through the covers, and a six over deep midwicket. This after she had skied one to deep square leg where Pooja Vastrakar put down India's fourth catch of the innings. She scored two more fours, one off Pandey and the other off Rana, before her 33-ball knock ended.
ENG Women vs IND Women
India Women tour of England
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo