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'I'll remember this day for a long time' - Sophia Dunkley on debut feat

England batter reflects on "crazy day" as hosts hit back after Shafali Verma fireworks

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Sophia Dunkley celebrates her maiden Test half-century, England v India, only Women's Test, Day 2, Bristol, June 17, 2021

Sophia Dunkley celebrates her maiden Test half-century  •  Getty Images

Two debutants, two excellent Test innings, but Sophia Dunkley said her unbeaten half-century was more about putting England in a good position on the second day of their match against India.
Dunkley, the first black woman to play Test cricket for England, was not out 74 when captain Heather Knight declared her side's first innings on 396 for 9. But her composed knock was somewhat overtaken by that of Shafali Verma, the 17-year-old India opener whose 96 in a 167-run stand with Smriti Mandhana threatened to overhaul the hosts' impressive total.
That was until five wickets fell for 16 runs in the final hour of the day, leaving India still 209 adrift and England very much back in the ascendancy.
"It's a very exciting day for me," Dunkley said. "[I was] just trying to get the team in a good position. To get fifty was very, very special and nice to have mum in the crowd.
"It's definitely been a crazy day today, getting a half-century on debut is definitely very special for me, and then going into the fielding innings, [Smriti] Mandhana and Verma got a good partnership going and gave us a few chances at times but things didn't really go our way.
"Then we got the breakthrough and five wickets fell and [it was] really exciting going into the evening and a lot of momentum to go into the morning with as well."
Dunkley had resumed on 12 and, after Katherine Brunt fell on the 12th ball of the day, she shared a 56-run partnership for the eighth wicket with Sophie Ecclestone. She also put on 70 runs with Anya Shrubsole, whose 33-ball 47 spurred England on after lunch.
Dunkley overturned an lbw decision that would have seen her out for 46 when her review showed Sneh Rana's delivery was missing leg stump, and she went on to bring up her fifty by running two after turning Rana through fine leg to warm applause from the stands.
"I was just thinking about getting the team in a good place really," Dunkley said. "It was all a bit of a blur. I was very, very happy but my main aim was to try and get us in a good position to go into the afternoon but to get fifty on the way is a very special moment to me and I'll remember this day for a long time."
Dunkley played 10 T20 internationals for England in 2018-19 but spent the next 18 months on the fringes of selection, battling for a place in what seemed like an impenetrable top six.
But after impressing during some intra-squad 50-over warm-up matches last summer and in the first edition of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, she earned a recall for the final two matches of England's T20Is series against West Indies.
She was part of England's T20 side which toured New Zealand earlier this year and, after scores of 104 not out, 0 and 92 in this year's Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, Knight said Dunkley had made herself "impossible" to leave out of the Test squad.
Dunkley could also appreciate the feats of Verma, who posted the highest score by an Indian woman on Test debut, showing off the hallmarks of her power game with 13 fours and two sixes as well as the maturity to adapt to the tempo of Test cricket.
"She played a few good shots and played a really good innings," Dunkley said. "We just fought hard and just stuck in there and just trusted that a chance would come.
"We did have a few early on close chances but just keep kept fighting and kept being ruthless and it came and I think that that really helped us to get through the end of the day."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo