The first thing I’m going to do, friends – unashamedly – is to point you towards my blistering England Scotland footie-blog. Deserves your attention.
It’s here – bowlingatvincent.com
Then I’m going to air the notion that I may not follow the action with the same live-frenzy I usually bring. Genuinely haven’t decided on that yet. Not at 10.26.
Heather Knight just hurt her hand in the slip-cordon warm-up. Has stepped out, waving it. May be a very temporary issue…
10.39. Knight bowling unencumbered – although how can we tell? (Lols). Coolish again but lighter breeze than yesterday. We know it’s a relatively lifeless track but again might expect some help through the air, for the seamers. Maybe. Having said that, expect Ecclestone to have a busy day.
India are 80-odd behind so expect them to manage the first hour or two before even contemplating sustained ‘positivity’. May not be in Verma’s nature to build slowly but she will presumably have been reminded that her personal contribution could be central to the outcome. Players are out.
Cross has three balls to bowl, from last night’s curtailed stint. Hilariously, one of the England women just barked “get two wickets, get the whole packet!” Second ball is 69mph. Then Ecclestone, from under the pavilion. Thought she was good but not relentlessly so, yesterday. She spears one significantly down leg.
Shrubsole replaces Cross at the Ashley Down Road End. Sharma is watchful.
OK. Is it incredible, or bold, or daft, that Verma firstly magnificently clubs Ecclestone straight, for six, but then falls, miscuing, to deep mid on? Whichever way, Verma’s contribution is over – and that feels big. England had been honest but unthreatening, ’til that moment.
Brunt’s stunning catch – she raced and dived forward, having seemingly either misjudged the flight or not picked up the ball, early on – was her second sensational moment of the game. (The first had been her treble-fabulous delivery to bowl Vastrakar, in the first innings). On intervention number two, hmm, perhaps too extravagant to describe it as a knockout blow… but man it was impressive. India, as we move forward with Punam Raut joining Sharma, are two-down, for 106. Raut faces a review, very early but Ecclestone’s ball is tracking on passed leg stump.
Different vibe as Brunt comes in from Ashley Down. Raut remains nervy – or looks that way. Pushes and misses, looking rather wooden. Survives. India still trail by 56 as Brunt draws an edgy on-drive to complete the over.
Let’s return to the Verma dismissal. There really is a case to answer – an argument – that it was reckless. As there is a case that ‘this is how she plays’. It strikes me as neither negative nor unreasonable to suggest that because of the match situation, it was unwise. Show us your expansive game when the time is right: if the coach, or your family or your fans are bawling, now, not to worry and the ‘time is always right, (to be positive)’ then they, too, are being unwise. Meanwhile, Raut is battling to muster some defiance and a slightly greater burden has fallen upon Deepti Sharma. 112 for 2, after 36 overs of the innings, with a theoretical 97(!) remaining today.
False-shots alert, from Raut. Off both Ecclestone and Brunt. But boundaries too – she cuts the tall off-spinner, to go to 17. Brunt absolutely slaps down an angry bouncer: there are whoops and mischievous giggles.
12.01. 125 for 2. Winfield-Hill clapping and encouraging. My first mint tea of the day… after two or three coffees. Brunt the Magnificent still believing she’s about to make something happen – any second. And of course, she does. LBW review. Big nick, so Raut not out. But something happened.
Enter Kate Cross, from the Bristol Pavilion End, I believe for the first time. Pleasing sight but she has not carried the same level of threat as Shrubsole or (particularly) Brunt. No matter. If she can settle I fancy she might induce a further error. We have a drinks break. And a helicopter going over. Refreshed, Heather Knight is in: four, through midwicket.
Deepti Sharma, understandably, has dropped anchor and is now 34 from 121 deliveries. Hoots of near-derision, as Raut looks to paddle Knight – possibly over her own head. She flops, mistiming, but not fatally. The fielders love it. Lights have been on all morning: it remains cool and the breeze may have risen a tad but there seems no threat to play, currently. Easy breakout, for Deepti, as Knight sticks one a foot to leg; gentle waft fine-ish for four. The partnership is approaching fifty – so relative calm, here.
Punam Raut incongruously bursts through that, by booming Cross for four more over mid-on. Ball in her arc.
Sciver. Ashley Down. 12.50. India only ten short of the follow-on. Deepti has an almost completely untroubled 48. Lunch at 13.15 but food has arrived, in here. (Nom, nom)…
Very generous applause, for Sharma’s fifty. 203 minutes, 157 balls: precious, in the context of the game. Sciver is bowling with real economy, conceding only 1 run from 4 overs. She bangs in two wide bouncers to conclude: Sharma doesn’t remotely bite. India reach the follow-on score and Sharma may be celebrating by cuffing Ecclestone powerfully square to the on-side boundary.
But as with Verma the boom precedes the bust. She goes again, swinging to leg but only succeeds in inside-edging onto her stumps. Bit unlucky, but England aren’t feeling too much sympathy. They leap in delight, and holler their congratulations once more, to their worldie of a slow left-armer. 171 for 3, India, with Deepti Sharma departed for 54. Lunch taken.
England huddle seemed in good spirits before the resumption. And Ecclestone’s unfinished over/odd-ball-out greeted with enthusiasm. Then Sciver, from Ashley Down. Sky looks a little more open but it still feels cool – long jumpers job. The icon that is Mithali Raj has joined Punam Raut.
Fielders around the bat are lively and encouraging. We’re alternating Sciver and Ecclestone: the occasional bumper from the former.
*Big Moment*. Live, Ecclestone appears to tickle the outside-edge of Mithali’s bat: the ball strikes the stumps on the way to being caught, by Jones. Except there was (now we see it on the telly) no edge. So bowled. Exciting and confusing at the same time: particularly so, with a review interfering, as it were. 175 for 4 now, India, a mere 10 ahead. Notable that Sciver has bowled 6 overs for 1 run – so a squeeze on. Meaning energy and verbals in the field.
Harmanpreet Kaur is in and forward-defending. But another plan comes to fruition – elsewhere. That bouncer thing. Sciver slaps another one in, at Raut, who slow-motion-pulls it straight to square leg. Easy catch, after 39 runs scored.
As Ecclestone returns from the pavilion end it’s now Vastrakar who must hold. Five wickets down and a win for England feeling possible – particularly with two new batters in. Some confusion, even in the scorebox and Media Posse, about whether this is Vastrakar swatting Ecclestone for two consecutive pulled fours. Some effort, from Sciver to have poured out 9.3 overs, so far, at 1 for 1. Phenomenal accuracy. She gets to the end of her tenth over, for no further concessions. (Earlier in the match, skipper Knight was sitting smugly at 2 for 1 after 6 overs; expecting some #bantz around this). Talking of Knight, she’s in, from the Ashley Down Road End. India lead by 23 at this point.
The captain strikes! Vastrakar simply misjudges a straight one – doing that airy, head-up swinganamiss thing – and she has to leave us, for 12. England’s grip is unmistakably tightening. Enter Rana, who is greeted with the friendliest of full-tosses; no run.
Couple of gifts: firstly Ecclestone to Rana then Knight to Kaur. Both legside boundaries. May not matter but who knows? Brunt jogs off to the khazi. Skies feel steady: not exactly bright but trustworthy enough, methinks.
Oof. Harmanpreet Kaur swishes early and gets a leading/top edge to Ecclestone. The ball travels implausibly high, vertically, before Jones pouches with almost apologetic ease. Weird one but more great news, for England. As I finish that sentence the opposition are 200 exactly, for 7, Pandey having joined Rana and pinched a single. Greyer, suddenly but with India only 35 ahead this can only be heading one way. (*Fatal).
I’d give Brunt a go, from Ashley Down: it goes without saying that Ecclestone will continue from underneath us – and she does. She has four close catchers again and there is lots of chat. Short and wide, though and Rana cuts with some style, for four. New over: the skipper fails to remove herself.
Knight is having fun. *All manner* of variations, including width, loop, pace or otherwise. Then she gets big turn – and reviews. May have been hitting but given not out and hitting pad outside off. Testing times, for Pandey and Rana. 209 for 7, at the over, 44 ahead. Still the Ecclestone-Knight axis. Half-chance, or less, as Pandey drills Ecclestone to silly mid-off. Ball may have struck the ankle – it certainly didn’t fall to hand.
Because I am a man of *huge influence*, Brunt, from the Ashley Down Road End. To Rana. New ball taken. Methinks this could be the beginning of the end but England have 3 wickets to take and towards 50 runs runs to amass, as it stands. Another pearler – that loopy away-swinger – beats the bat. Slight sense that there may be weather around, or that the possibility for weather may be more strongly present. Shrubsole. Brunt hares then launches after a cover drive, yet again showing that uber-intense commitment of hers. Can’t haul it in but things are happening. The new cherry threatens to deliver.
15.24, so not oodles of time left in the Test but you would think enough. Pandey and Rana are proving game but if there are no interruptions England will expect to be chasing a smallish total for victory. Unless…
Extravagant inswing, from Shrubsole but overdone. Rana can clip away, for four. That delivery enough to suggest that England seamers can resolve this, soonish. One more wicket and home. Unless.
Brunt, again. Falling over with the effort. Trying to win it by sheer force of personality – and she might. Over to Shrubsole – and an interestingly united shout, for a nick… which never was. (Denied, on review). Fair play, Rana has proceeded to 21. Pandey has 6 and we are half an hour from tea, as Sciver comes back to replace Brunt. My hunch is that Shrubsole may yet bowl somebody from this Bristol Pavilion End but she may tire – Knight may need Ecclestone, soonish.
Or, conversely, Sciver’s accuracy may draw something. Here she gets a thickish outside edge for no reward. Four more, to Rana. Pandey joins in by placing Shrubsole out through cover. Then to third man. Important runs. The lead has extended to 71 – so a meaningful lump of batting, now.
After what felt like a mini-hiatus, a breakthrough for Sciver. In truth it’s a ball which leaks down leg, but Jones dives athletically and low, to snaffle a wee glance from Pandey. Huge. Eight down, India, on 240, 75 the lead. Bhatia is joining Rana. England must pounce, now, to make this theirs. Otherwise, could be wonderfully tense.
Ecclestone is back, to much applause, having changed ends. Newish ball, a spirited group to urge her on – could be entertaining. It is: fielders *interested* as Bhatia cuts/pushes, with little control. A loud but optimistic (and unsuccessful) appeal brings tea. ‘Poised’ probably doesn’t cover it.
Umps out for the last session. Whatever happens, what a great Test it’s been! Brunt bowls a loosener to Bhatia. Then a thick outside edge past gully. Then the bowler is furious, having offered a leg-stump gift. We’re at that stage where everything means something. If India can go on for ten overs, they’ll probably save it. Ecclestone.
Rana – very much to her credit – goes to 40, back-driving Ecclestone. Mini-calm again, then Sciver is back to try to crack this open. Nope. A floaty, wide one outside off is beautifully eased out through extra cover for four. Lovely shot, Rana. Two short ones. 267 for 8. Lead of 102.
Time may be stalling but Rana persists… and gets to a heroic 50, increasing the Twitchiness Factor around the ground. A little angst surely brewing in the stands and amongst those England players? Ecclestone still has four fielders around the bat but she is being picked off, a little. Things may change minute-by-minute but not clear where a wicket is coming from again, now. Rana cuts beautifully and connects sweetly with another wide-ish one, from Sciver – four more.
Change – or possibly two changes needed. Knight will have a go. (Will she also give Dunkley another dash? I would. Might be a bold one; might be just the curve-ball the moment needs). A look at the scoreboard reinforces that sense that something may need to be risked. Bhatia now 20 undefeated and Rana 60. Odds shifted towards a draw. Unless.
An unlikely 300 comes up, for India, courtesy of another clip to fine leg, by Rana. The talk in the press box, with 25 overs (minus two for the change) remaining, is around the likelihood or timing of an early handshake. Only if England plunder two wickets in two balls – give or take – does the 144 needed now seem gettable. Funny how these things creep up on you, but hey – that’s Test Cricket. If we do indeed wind down to something of an anti-climax I still feel that this has been a really good contest. Both sides will have come out of it with plenty of those proverbial ‘positives’.
Drinks. An opportunity for conversations. The Indian support staff are all in coats and hats but they’re looking justifiably chirpy. The batters are actually having a bit of a thrash, now – partly because Ecclestone is losing her consistency. These are long days. England will probably feel that this is a match they might have won – indeed, they should feel that. But we were told that India bat deep and when they needed to – that is, in this second dig – they have done that. They are to be congratulated.
Kate Cross is having a run. Appeals, but it’s well down leg. It feels, in any case, that we’re seeing out time, now – that this is practice. Cross may not see it that way; she bursts in with characteristic commitment and no little grace. No joy. We await some sign that *things are agreed*.
Imagining Knight is continuing (to bowl herself) rather than (say) Dunkley to avoid possible trauma to the leg-spinner. Other views are available: one being that because Dunkley’s very first ball turned pret-ty dynamically, she could have been an option, at various points in the game. Okay, her single over was punished but she may, given her point of difference, have broken the concentration or the impasse, possibly. If the batters set off to expose and target her then a) this is part of the game and b) she’s gotta learn to cope with that – strategise around it. But hey – another opinion. Instead, Elwiss is getting a trundle. Medium pace (plus), right arm.
Cross is getting a mini-spell. She bowls a nice leg-cutter that draws an edge, which flies directly onto Jones’s calf, behind the stumps. (Jones standing up, not a chance – too low, too sharp). Elwiss too, is into some flow. Bowling around 64mph, in fact, so briskly enough. Little expectation of a wicket, however.
At 344 for 8, following a lusty blow for four from Bhatia, agreement is reached. (Not clear who effectively called it). Despite the last hour or more of phoney war, this has been a competitive and enjoyable game to watch: something of a privilege, for me, to have attended the last two Test Matches for England women, in their entirety. May there be many more. Thanks to all at Gloucester Cricket, for their hospitality and to you, for your company.
On that bombshell, I’m off to chill, *quite possibly* without checking this over for that one, final time. Forgive me.