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India v England: Hosts dominate day one on batting-friendly pitch


England’s bowlers toiled in the Mumbai heat as India capitalised on a batting-friendly surface on day one of the one-off Test match.

India v England: Hosts dominate day one on batting-friendly pitch
India v England: Hosts dominate day one on batting-friendly pitch

India got to 410-7 as four players made half-centuries, including debutants Jemimah Rodrigues and Satheesh Shubha.

England took two quick wickets on three separate occasions but India’s batters impressively withstood the pressure each time.

Seamer Lauren Bell was the pick of England’s bowlers with 2-64.

England took early control as Bell and Kate Cross removed dangerous India openers Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma, before Test debutant Rodrigues and international debutant Satheesh batted with sublime composure for a third-wicket stand of 115.

Satheesh fell for 69 and Rodrigues 68, five overs apart, only for England to be thwarted again by a 116-run partnership between the counter-attacking Bhatia and captain Harmanpreet Kaur.

Similarly, both departed within five overs of one another as Bhatia made 66 and Kaur was calamitously run out for 49, but Deepti Sharma’s unbeaten 60 nullified the threat of a late fightback from England’s tiring bowlers.

England bowled with reasonable discipline despite India’s resistance, with the hosts enjoying first use of a flat pitch which will give Heather Knight’s side confidence for their first batting attempt.

England won the T20 series that preceded the Test match 2-1, but the matches are not part of a multi-format points-based series as with the summer’s Ashes.

India withstand Ecclestone threat

England’s strategy with the ball – regardless of the format – tends to revolve around the world’s best spinner, Sophie Ecclestone.

The left-armer economically whizzes through her overs at one end, more often than not claiming wickets as well as pressure, which allows Knight to chop and change her seamers at the other.

And given Ecclestone’s quality, the times in which it does not work are very rare.

But, despite the pitch at the DY Patil venue offering some encouraging turn and bounce for the spinners, India expertly managed what few teams have by putting the pressure back on her.

Ecclestone finished with respectable figures of 1-85 from 22 overs but India’s plan was clear, each batter looking with intent to tick plenty of singles off her bowling and forcing her to stray from the metronomic line and length that usually works so effectively.

Rodrigues, who has had to wait a while for her Test debut despite having more than 100 white-ball caps, set the tone with her energetic, busy style and impressive fitness, while Satheesh remained unfazed by the occasion with a 49-ball half-century.

Their platform then allowed Bhatia’s aggression and Kaur’s elegance to flourish, before Deepti’s graft completed a promising day for India with their highest Test total on home soil.

England and Knight must be wary of Ecclestone’s workload, however, as she has form for bowling long spells in their infrequent Test appearances. But, having just returned from a shoulder surgery, they do not want to compromise their most valuable asset.

Bell steps up for tiring England

India v England: Hosts dominate day one on batting-friendly pitch
India v England: Hosts dominate day one on batting-friendly pitch

By the end of 94 overs, England were starting to tire in the Mumbai humidity.

It is understandable, given their inexperience of playing in these conditions for such a long period of time – England have not played a Test in India since 2005.

The inexperienced but exciting prospect Lauren Filer, the only bowler not to take a wicket, struggled to threaten with pace in her second and third spells, Cross followed the same trend after a decent new-ball spell while Ecclestone and Charlie Dean’s spin threat was comfortably withstood.

But Bell, after a coming-of-age summer in the Ashes, continues to grow her reputation.

The 22-year-old started her career as a promising but often inconsistent bowler, with height, bounce and natural in-swing working in her favour if she could learn to control them – which she has.

Opener Mandhana edged on to her stumps for 17 for England’s first breakthrough before a beautiful swinging delivery burst through Rodrigues’ defence to break the game open when the batters were looking so settled.

She was disappointed to drop a simple chance to get rid of Bhatia on 15, eventually correcting herself to eventually take the chance when the batter had added further 53 runs, but she is establishing herself as a natural new-ball companion for Cross and a reliable wicket-taker in the middle overs.

For England generally, though, they face an uphill task and their fitness will certainly be tested in such unfamiliar territory.

‘A tough day but we got through it together’ – reaction

India batter Jemimah Rodrigues on TNT Sports: “This a very good score, to end the day with 400 on the board with the way that everyone contributed.

“Nobody got a hundred but we had many 100-run partnerships and that shows what our team effort looks like.”

England bowler Lauren Bell: “India batted really well today, I guess that is Test match cricket. It was a tough day today, but I feel like we can come back tomorrow and that is the beauty of it.

“We had to work hard for our wickets. You can’t prepare for a Test match until you actually play it, you don’t know how it’s going to be, but definitely the second phase of the game was tough.

“We got through it and we’ve got a close-knit team, we got through it together.”

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