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Match Analysis

Heather Knight rues missed hundred but return of women's Tests is reason to celebrate

Captain made fluent 95 but her dismissal coincided with England's middle-order wobble

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
"It would have been lovely," was Heather Knight's summation as she rued falling five runs shy of a century in her 100th match as England captain. But even still, there was much to love about the opening day of the Test at Bristol.
India's first match in the format for seven years kicked off England Women's home summer in glorious sunshine before a small but appreciative crowd and a live TV audience. And it was Test cricket, with twists and turns that left the match poised intriguingly at the close with India having forced their way back into the contest after an excellent start by the home side's top four.
"[I'm] just really frustrated to be honest," Knight continued in assessment of her innings, which included a 90-run partnership with Nat Sciver for the third wicket. "I felt really comfortable out there. I felt like I was going really well and had worn the Indian bowlers down quite a lot and was starting to cash in a little bit on our hard work and was starting to score a bit more freely."
But from 230 for 2, England lost 4 for 21 to be 269 for 6 at the close, letting their grip on the game slip.
"[I'm] super frustrated," Knight said. "The partnership that me and Nat had, we felt that we could take the game forward a lot faster because runs were coming a lot more easy, and then we lost a few wickets so I was frustrated at the time I got out as well for the team.
"We probably would have comfortably got up to 300, but that's Test cricket isn't it? It ebbed and flowed quite brilliantly throughout the day and the Indians pulled it back quite nicely at the end."
As disappointed as she was, Knight led her side with distinction, just as she had done on the eve of the match when expressing her disappointment at being given a pitch used for a men's T20 Blast match last Friday while vowing to get on with the job on whatever surface was provided.
As it turned out, the pitch didn't play many tricks, but offered diminishing movement and carry as the day wore on with hints that it might turn more as the game progresses.
It was a nervy moment when Knight edged Sneh Rana into the narrow gap between the keeper and first slip and set off for what turned out to be three runs as Harmanpreet Kaur gave chase and cut the ball off with a dive just inside the rope at third man.
Knight was within touching distance of the triple-figure innings that would cap a strong showing by England's top order. Things became more tense when she was rapped on the pad by Deepti Sharma with the very next ball and given out lbw by on-field umpire Sue Redfern. Knight called for the DRS but the decision was upheld on umpire's call as ball-tracking showed the ball clipping off stump.
Her dismissal followed those of Sciver, who reached 42 after she was dropped on 34 by Sharma at midwicket, and Amy Jones for 1, both using up one of England's three reviews to unsuccessfully contest lbw decisions in favour of Sharma and Rana respectively.
It was Lauren Winfield-Hill and Tammy Beaumont who had set England off to a sound start with a 69-run opening stand. Winfield-Hill scored an entertaining 35 from 63 balls while Beaumont was clearly disappointed at not pushing on from a valuable 66.
The duo navigated England through a watchful first hour before settling into their stride. Winfield-Hill, making a comeback of sorts after a battle with Crohn's disease which saw her also struggling for game time, received a lifeline on 3 when she edged Jhulan Goswami to first slip only to see the catch put down by Smriti Mandhana.
Having tried in vain to put away four Rana deliveries in a row, unable to beat the on-side fielders each time, Winfield-Hill found the boundary off Shikha Pandey through cover point in the net over and, two balls later, lofted her over midwicket for six to bring up England's fifty.
Another six of Pooja Vastrakar went over Pandey's head at deep backward square but, when Vastrakar found an edge with a full delivery outside off, Taniya Bhatia took an excellent catch behind the stumps diving to her right to end Winfield-Hill's knock.
Restored as opener after playing a floating role during the T20 World Cup, Beaumont has thrived ever since. Scores of 71, 72* and 88* made her the leading run-scorer in England's winter ODI series in New Zealand and propelled her to the top of the ICC's batting rankings. She has also been in fine touch in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy with two half-centuries in three matches before entering the England camp.
And she looked set to carry on in the same vein, putting on 71 runs with Knight before a stunning catch from 17-year-old Shafali Verma at short leg ended her innings on 66, the second Test fifty of her career.
Sciver, the vice-captain, had warned in the lead-up to the match of a certain fearlessness among India's youth, among whom Verma is a shining light. And while Verma had looked uncomfortable for much of her stint fielding in close, she showed her courage in taking the low, one-handed catch that accounted for Beaumont.
After Rana claimed her third wicket by luring Elwiss into a drive only to be caught by Sharma at slip, it became a case of surviving until stumps for England in anticipation of what Sophia Dunkley, in particular, may be able to offer on the second day, having shown herself to be in fine touch in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy with an unbeaten century and score of 92 leading into this match.
"The way she's played it's made it impossible for us to leave her out," Knight said of Dunkley, who became the first black woman to play Test cricket for England. "She's really knocked the door down with her weight of runs.
"[I'm] delighted for her and delighted that hopefully there's people watching that look up to her and see that cricket's for them and they can be where Sophia is one day."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo