England skipper Knight hits 95 but India fight back on absorbing first day – highlights & reporton June 16, 2021 at 6:01 pm

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England suffer a late collapse against India after a sterling 95 from captain Heather Knight on a fluctuating first day of the one-off Test.

England 269-6: Knight 95, Beaumont 66, Rana 3-77
India: Yet to bat

The hosts slipped from 230-2 to 251-6, losing four wickets for 21 runs on a turning pitch before reaching 269-6 at the close.

Knight, in her 100th match as England captain, was distraught to fall five runs short of a century after watching Nat Sciver and Amy Jones be dismissed in quick succession by a rejuvenated India.

India acquitted themselves well in their first Test for six years, with debutant spinners Sneh Rana and Deepti Sharma taking 3-77 and 2-50 respectively.

After the criticism of the Test being played on a used pitch, the opening day had a bit of everything – runs for the batters and turn later in the day for the India spinners.

Tammy Beaumont’s 66 and a positive 35 from Lauren Winfield-Hill helped England make a strong start, but India fought hard to check their progress.

However, with a mixed forecast for the remaining three days, England will know they need to make the best use of a pitch that will only deteriorate.

“I still think it’s an evenly poised contest,” England World Cup winner Alex Hartley told Test Match Special.

“After the first two sessions it was definitely all going England’s way and I was doubting India’s team selection without the variation of spinner, but I think both teams will be pretty happy.”

India hit back on absorbing day

For much of the day, England played positive cricket with the batters jumping on poor deliveries and keeping the tempo of the match ticking along.

But it is to India’s credit that after a chastening afternoon session, which saw a weary fielding unit trudge off the field, they regrouped, making inroads almost immediately after tea.

Sciver and Knight, England’s most consistent all-format players, shared a 90-run stand before Sciver was trapped lbw by a full delivery from Sharma.

Wicketkeeper Jones, who has impressed in domestic cricket this summer, was also pinned lbw by Rana before Knight, on the brink of her second Test century, went deep into her crease to Sharma and was also trapped in front.

After Georgia Elwiss was caught at first slip by a diving, tumbling Mithali Raj, it was down to debutant Sophia Dunkley, the first black woman to represent England in Test cricket, to guide them to the close without any further damage.

India could have made inroads earlier. Sciver should have been caught at mid-wicket on 34 but was dropped by Sharma, while Smriti Mandhana was guilty of a poor drop at first slip to reprieve opener Winfield-Hill.

India did, however, finish the day strongly, which will give them confidence for the next three days.

England show positive mindset

Head coach Lisa Keightley told BBC Sport before the series that should England get the opportunity, they would “definitely look to win”.

This positivity was on show from the opening moments. Having seen out the first hour, Winfield-Hill unleashed two huge sixes, including a flat-batted heave into the stands over mid-wicket.

Knight exemplified the approach, taking advantage of any poor deliveries, hitting nine fours in her 175-ball knock.

Hartley, who played white-ball international cricket under Knight’s captaincy, described the knock as “one of the best innings I’ve seen her play”.

“She looked confident and solid at the crease, she didn’t look like getting out until that one ball,” Hartley added.

“It was the first mistake she made all day and she will be frustrated with herself because she was so in control every ball she faced out there.”

Despite not having a fresh pitch, England never looked anything less than busy, running well and finding the gaps on a slow outfield.

Although the collapse briefly halted their progress, England will be pleased with their position, and the way they handled a potentially tricky pitch.

“The pitch was a little bit on the slow side,” said Knight at the close of play. “There was not a huge amount of carry, but I thought it played OK. I think it might turn more as the game progresses.

“We put pressure on their bowlers and played with good intent. The score is good and it’s a really important morning tomorrow. If we can push that score up to 350 it gives us a chance to control the game a lot better.”

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