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The anatomy of England's demolition

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Last updated on 16 Dec 2023 | 04:09 PM
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The anatomy of England's demolition

England women were playing their 'historic' 100th Test. But the only history they might remember will be how they were outplayed in all three departments.

Obliteration. Demolition. Destruction. Annihilation. Every synonym of all these words describes what the Indian women did to the English in the only Test at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. 

England women were playing their 100th Test. It was a historic occasion for them. But the only history they might remember will be how they were outplayed in all three departments. 

Before we talk about how the Indian women managed to win such a spectacular victory, let’s briefly go through what happened in the game. 

The coin luck was in India’s favour, as clad in her new India blazer, Harmanpreet Kaur won the toss and decided to bat first on a pitch that was a classic red-soil track. It played like a dream batting pitch on Day 1, and the Indians put a massive 410 runs on the board. 

After that, it was all catch-up for England, which they never did. Their bowlers, except Lauren Bell and Charlie Dean, were inconsistent to a large extent and failed to bowl in a single spot with discipline. They weren’t supported in the field either. Meanwhile, the Indian batters couldn’t score a century, but four fifties in the first innings and two century-run partnerships later, India were able to put up 428 runs in the first innings. 

When England came to bat, none of their batters except the inevitable Nat Sciver-Brunt could put pressure on the Indian pacers or spinners. Her 59 turned out to be the highest score for both the English innings. Deepti Sharma picked up the fastest-ever fifer in Women’s Test matches. 

India didn’t enforce the follow-on after bundling up England for 136. They batted again, and, this time, they tasted a bit of their own medicine, as Charlie Dean learned from her mistake in the first innings and bowled with discipline, getting the ball to turn and bounce. Even Sophie Ecclestone managed two wickets courtesy of the bounce on the track despite giving more than five runs per over. 

The hosts declared overnight on Day 2 with the score reading 188-6, and on Day 3, they just hammered England. First, pacers Renuka Singh Thakur and Pooja Vastrakar decimated the English top four. Even the perennially consistent Nat Sciver-Brunt couldn’t do anything as she was clean bowled on a peach of a delivery bowled by Vastrakar. 

Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad shared the remaining six wickets, as the former picked up the best-ever figures for an Indian spinner in Tests with match figures of 9-39. India won by a humungous margin of 347 runs, their second-biggest victory in terms of runs. 

But this was only what happened in the game. How it happened is much more interesting! Let me take you through it. 

The double pace trouble ft. Pooja Vastrakar and Renuka Singh Thakur

Renuka Singh was making her debut in the format. Pooja Vastrakar was playing her first-ever red ball game in India. Before this game, they probably wouldn’t have bowled much with the red SG ball used for the longest format. 

However, both Indian pacers bowled like pros in hitting the right length on the pitch and targeting the stumps. They did leak boundaries now and then, as they weren’t accustomed to bowling in a Test, but still, Renuka managed an economy of 3.6 in the first innings, with Pooja’s economy being 4.3. 

If you see both pacers' pitch maps, you can see how more than 50% of their deliveries from a good and full length were hitting the stumps. 

Renuka manages to do that consistently because of the prodigious amount of inswing she generates, and then also gets the ball to move in after pitching. Her dismissal of Sophia Dunkley in the first innings greatly illustrates that. Meanwhile, Pooja was getting sharp inward movement after pitching the ball at a good length. She bowled exactly that to clean up Nat Sciver-Brunt in the second innings, where she picked up three wickets! 

Meanwhile, when you see the pitch map of the English pacers, you’ll find that not only were they hitting the wickets less often, but they weren’t able to bowl consistently in the good length areas. Most of their boundary balls were pitched in the full-length area, and the likes of Shubha Satheesh, Jemimah Rodrigues, and Harmanpreet Kaur drove them down the ground with ease. 

Moreover, their much taller heights than the Indian pacers were also an impediment as their deliveries bounced more from the same length. 

Decimation by spin ft. Deepti Sharma and Co.

Harmanpreet introduced Deepti Sharma quite late in the bowling on day 2. It took her two balls in the first innings to strike, as she got Danni Wyatt caught at short leg. Thirty-two balls later, she gave only seven runs and had completed her first fifer in Test cricket, which was also the fastest for a woman in Test history. 

That’s how good Deepti Sharma was! 

She bowled slow, used the seam inventively to turn the ball square, and majorly pitched it on a good length. That was largely the pattern followed by the other two Indian spinners, Sneha Rana and Rajeshwari Gayakwad. 

If one saw the three Indian spinners turning the ball square on Day 2, it was easy to infer that the pitch was a raging turner. However, the pitch was more of a tricky turner than a raging one, as was revealed when English spinners bowled in the second Indian innings. 

The odd ball was turning sharp from Dean, and Ecclestone, the tall spinner she is, was also getting it to bounce. That’s how she succeeded against Smriti Mandhana and Yastika Bhatia. But they got significantly less turn than the Indian spinners.

However, a close look at their pitch map will show how their lines and lengths weren’t as consistent as the Indian spinners. Additionally, their average speeds were in the high 70s as they didn’t toss it up much, while the Indian spinners were giving it a lot of air and largely bowling in the low 70s and, as a result, were able to turn the ball a lot more. 

Overall, the English spinners picked ten wickets. Deepti Sharma alone picked up nine and combined, the Indian spinners sent back 13 English batters. That alone tells the story. 

England’s woebegone batting display

Nine clean bowled. Just one fifty in two innings. Not a single batter scoring more than 21 in the second innings. Only one half-century partnership in both innings combined. And just 63 overs of batting in the entire match. 

That’s how bad England’s batting was in the Test! 

Yes, they lost the toss and missed the best time to bat on the track. Yes, the entire squad was playing a Test in India for the first time. Yes, spin isn’t their best suit. Yes, it was a tricky track. 

But still, the reasons above aren’t justifiable enough for England batters because, except for Harmanpreet and Mandhana, none of the Indian batters have experienced playing a Test in India. 

The English batters failed to cover the movement of the ball when the Indian pacers bowled, and they also couldn’t anticipate or combat the turn that the Indian spinners were getting. 

Such lack of application was the main reason behind England’s downfall in the Test, where they failed even to compete and were defeated within seven sessions. 

Meanwhile, when compared with the opposition, the Indian batters may have failed to notch up a hundred, but whenever a wicket fell, there was a visible effort put in by the incoming batter to build up a partnership. As a result, India had three fifty-plus and two hundred-plus partnerships across both innings. 

After all, Test match batting is all about partnerships, right? The 428 runs India scored in the first innings despite losing two or more wickets in each session is a testament to that. 

Moreover, the Indian batters looked much more technically adept while playing spin. The likes of Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues played with soft and flexible hands, following the ball’s turn till the last moment by concentrating hard. That allowed them to combat the turn and not edge the delivery to the close-in fielders. 

All this combined to ensure that what was a historic Test for England actually became a memorable one for the Indian women, who would hope that they wouldn’t have to wait nine more years for another Test at home after the Test against Australia. 

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