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Tour and tournament reports

England Women vs India Women in 2021

A review of England Women vs India Women in 2021

Kalika Mehta
Sophia Dunkley laces a cover drive for four  •  Getty Images

Sophia Dunkley laces a cover drive for four  •  Getty Images

Test match (1): England 0, India 0 One-day internationals (3): England 2, India 1 Twenty20 internationals (3): England 2, India 1 Overall points: England 10, India 6
It was a joyous occasion when England and India walked out for the opening match of the summer to cheers around the Bristol County Ground, after Covid-19 had forced England to play their home games behind closed doors in 2020. In further cause for celebration, they were wearing whites, a rare sight in modern women's cricket, though there was a distinct difference between the home side's cream kit and the visitors' brilliant white. India had not worn theirs for nearly seven years - their previous Test was against South Africa in November 2014 - whereas the multi-format Ashes had given England a Test every two years.
This was the first series (apart from the Ashes) to adopt the multi-format framework, with four points available for the Test, and two for each of the six white-ball games. England claimed overall victory, but not until the last: had India won the third Twenty20, at Chelmsford, the series would have been drawn.
In the Test, India fielded five debutants to England's one, and of their other six only captain Mithali Raj and seamer Jhulan Goswami had played more than two Tests. But Raj and Goswami, ever-present in India's ten previous Tests in the 21st century, were outshone by two of the newcomers, whose vim and vigour secured an unexpected draw.
There had been questions over whether 17-year-old batting sensation Shafali Verma - the youngest Indian woman to make her Test debut since Rajani Venugopal, then 15, in 1984-85 - could translate her white-ball skills into the four-day game. Meanwhile, Sneh Rana was being given a second chance, more than five years after her last international. Verma played two dazzling innings, while Rana followed up four wickets by batting more than three hours to save the game. It ended with India eight down but 179 ahead after following on; a fifth day would almost certainly have yielded a result.
The ebbs and flows of the match showed the talent on both sides. England handed a cap to Sophia Dunkley - the first black woman to play Test cricket for them - and she stepped up to score an unbeaten 74. Captain Heather Knight, like Verma, just missed out on a century, while left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone collected four wickets in each innings.
But the teams headed into the white-ball games on two points apiece, before England completed 2-1 wins in both the one-day and T20 series. With the 50-over World Cup in New Zealand due to begin in March 2022 (a year late, because of the Covid crisis), the two sides - finalists in 2017 - were working out their likely line-ups, though both were due to tour Australia before the tournament.
In the second ODI, at Taunton, Kate Cross repaid coach Lisa Keightley's faith by claiming only her second five-wicket haul, while Dunkley showed she could handle pressure and steady the middle order. Danni Wyatt, now 30, was left out of the ODIs, but seized the chance to remind Keightley of her quality in the final T20, steering England to a series win with an unbeaten 89.
One of the biggest talking points in the 50-over matches was Raj's scoring-rate. Though she struck a half-century in all three, the first two came in losing causes, with India failing to set sufficiently challenging targets. Raj finished with 206 runs for twice out, returned to the top of the ODI rankings, and overtook Charlotte Edwards as the leading run-scorer across all women's internationals. She remained India's best one-day batter, but the game has evolved: she ate up valuable balls, and her strike rotation was slack.
In the field, too, there was more energy and bounce when Harmanpreet Kaur took charge - as she did in the second ODI, after Raj was injured batting, and in the T20s, when Raj did not play. Heading into the World Cup, India needed to inject some urgency to supplement her stability, if they were to repeat or improve on their performance as runners-up in 2017.