In one of the most stunning and calculative assaults on the final day's play in Bristol, debutants Sneh Rana and Taniya Bhatia stole the show with an unbeaten 108-run stand for the ninth wicket to secure a memorable draw for India in the one-off women's Test against England here on Saturday. Deepti Sharma laid the foundation of the comeback following yet another middle-order failure. Deepti produced a dogged resistance with a 168-ball 54 before Rana's dazzling unbeaten 80 off 154 balls frustrated the England bowlers with two crucial partnerships down the order with Shikha Pandey and Bhatia (44 not out off 88) respectively.
The 27-year-old, who had taken four wickets in the first innings with her off-spin, had made a national comeback with this game. The two teams eventually decided to shake hands after 121.2 overs. Forced to follow on after being dismissed for 231 in their first innings, India resumed the final day at 83 for one but lost talented Shafali Verma (63) early.
Sharma then joined hands with Punam Raut (39) and added 72 runs to take India to 171 for three at lunch. But the visitors lost four quick wickets for 28 runs to stare down the barrel at one stage before Rana and Pandey batted for almost 17 overs to stem the rot as India took tea at 243 for 8 with 40 overs still remaining in the match. After the break, Rana continued in the same vein as she smashed 13 fours in her 154-ball innings to take India's lead across the 150-mark.
Earlier, India opener Shafali (63) Verma could add just eight more runs to her overnight score as she was caught by Katherine Brunt off Ecclestone in the 30th over. Smashed for a straight six in the first ball of the over, Ecclestone came back to dismiss Verma in the last delivery with Brunt taking a spectacular catch at long-on.
Sharma and Raut then showed great resilience as India took a lead of six runs with seven wickets in hand at lunch. However, a sudden lapse of concentration saw Sharma go for a reckless slog off Ecclestone in the 58th over only to drag the ball onto her leg-stump in what was the last ball before lunch. Sharma played some good-looking shots, which included a drive off Anya Shrubsole and a sweep shot. Raut too had a few hits to the fence -- one-off Ecclestone across the cover region and the other being a back-foot punch through covers.
Sharma reached her fifty, taking a single off Natalie Sciver behind square in the 55th overs before being dismissed at the stroke of lunch. England dealt two quick blows, dismissing skipper Mithali Raj (4) and Raut cheaply to leave India at 175 for five after lunch.
While Raj completely misread an Ecclestone delivery only to see it clip the bails off, Raut, who was looking good till then, ended up giving a straight catch at square leg. Pooja Vastrakar (12) then smashed three boundaries off Ecclestone in the 68th overs before being cleaned up by Heather Knight in the 71st over.
Vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur, who had scored just 4 in the first innings, too couldn't last long in the middle as she got out playing a slog sweep to become the fourth victim of Ecclestone. Pandey and Rana then hit eight boundaries between them before the former was caught behind Nat Sciver's bowling in the 91st over.
For England, Sophie Ecclestone (4/118) was the best bowler, while Sciver took a couple of wickets.
(With inputs from PTI)