England Women forced to settle for draw as India’s lower order thwarts hosts

India Women’s lower order scuppered England’s chances of a first Test victory on home soil since 2005 as the two nations played out a draw at the Bristol County Ground.

A tremendous 104-run partnership for the ninth wicket between Sneh Rana and Taniya Bhatia secured the draw for the visitors, with England unable to break through and start a run chase on the final day.

The game was brought to a close with 12 overs left as the players shook for the draw with India on 344 for eight in their second innings and leading by 179 runs. Both sides took two points each from the one-off Test.

Having started the day 83 for one, India looked to be progressing steadily towards safety before losing four wickets for 18 runs in the middle of the day to slump to 243 for eight at tea – a lead of just 78.

But England’s hopes of finishing off the India tail quickly and setting themselves a target were crushed by a brilliant unbroken stand between Rana and Bhatia.

Rana scored just two runs in the first innings but crucially found her form in the second, top-scoring with 80 runs from 154 balls, while Bhatia finished unbeaten on 44.

The day had not started badly for England with spinner Sophie Ecclestone taking two wickets in the first session, including a diving one-handed catch from Katherine Brunt to dismiss the dangerous Shafali Verma for 63.

Deepti Sharma (54) was made to work hard for her half-century, which came form 157 balls before she played on, again off Ecclestone.

After lunch England looked to have put themselves in a good position, taking five wickets in the session as India moved just 78 ahead.

Ecclestone (four for 118) claimed two more wickets, including India captain Mithali Raj for just four in what could be her final Test innings in England.

The world’s number one T20 bowler also took the wicket of her former Lancashire Thunder teammate Harmanpreet Kaur when she top-edged a sweep shot and was caught by wicketkeeper Amy Jones.

England's Sophie Ecclestone took four for 88 in the second innings, bowling 26 overs
England’s Sophie Ecclestone took four for 88 in the second innings, bowling 26 overs (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Nat Sciver’s decision to bowl it short was more than a match for Punam Raut who picked out Ecclestone at square leg in between the spinner’s wickets. It was a good spell for the seamer who took one wicket for one run in 10 overs.

Heather Knight chipped in with the wicket of Pooja Vastrakar for just 12, and Shikha Pandey clipped Sciver behind into Jones’ gloves for 18, leaving India looking in real trouble going into tea.

However after the break, the lengthy time in the field – India having been asked to follow on – seemed to catch up with the England bowlers, in particular the only front-line spinner Ecclestone, who bowled 38 overs to go with her 26 from the first innings.

As part of her match-saving partnership, Rana became just the fourth woman to take four wickets and score a half-century on Test debut as India held on for the draw.