Taunton.

Arrived early. On the muggy side of warm – so perfect. Summery. Feels like a big runs day but who knows? Certainly hope that India can find another level of dynamism, otherwise this could be one-sided again.

13.09 and quite vigorous warm-ups going on. Do wonder if (on a day like today) this is *entirely necessary*, to this level but hey ho – folks getting paid to organise this stuff. View from our corner is loveleeee… but askew… and not clear if we will hear announcements or see screens all that easily. No matter. Somerset is showing off and the afternoon/evening should be fantastic.

Ecclestone, Beaumont and others involved in fielding/catching rotation. Perfectly good drills going on but slight concern that these days become ver-ry long – for blokes and gals – if the warm-up stuff takes hours. Difficult to sustain energy and concentration to a maximum, endlessly, yes? Actively enjoy watching the pre-game activity. Not remotely being critical: just hope these guys are considering this angle.

13.28. Journos slapping on the sun-lotion: that soft creamy smell. Nice – as is the wee breeze wafting into our open marquee. Might be coffe time. (Instant – can’t have everything). On the team news front, England predictably are unchanged after the procession in Bristol. India make three changes: Raut, Vastrakar and Bisht are hoiked, replaced by Jemima Rodrigues, Poonam Yadav and Sneh Rana. Ooh: thunder flies.

13.52 and the Big Question is whether India can lift themselves into another, more boomtastic cultural orbit – much like the England men did some years ago? India (women) have looked lamentably behind the contemporary process, seemingly unable to shift at a rate beyond four an over, for any meaningful period. Given the resources available to the national governing body, this is an extraordianry failure.

How much of that is down to raw sexism and under-valuing of the women’s pathway is open to debate. I find it incredible that one of the world powers in the game cannot (apparently) find batters who can biff to international white-ball standards. We can’t rule out arrogance and conservatism amongst leading and established players but for the youngster, Verma, to be burdened with so much pressure as the sole attacking batter seems crazy.

India are batting and Brunt has opened to Mandhana. Peach of an away-swinger, early. India’s left-hander responds with a sweetly-struck boundary. The Indian dressing room is stationed twenty yards to my right. On the balcony, they liked that.

Okaaay, I’ll level with you, friends. Wifi carnage – or not updating carnage is intervening, here. Am a tolerant bloke but this is a test. Most of the last X paragraphs have been re-written at breakneck speed because the f***ers would ‘t update on my laptop. There may be a agap here because I can’t catch up – am switching back to The Old Way; punching stuff out on the ipad…

*Stuff we missed. Winfield-Hill drops Verma! Mandhana is OUT! (Plays on, to Kate Cross, for 22). Then India’s junior worldie blasts on, joined by Rodrigues. After 14 overs, India are 66 for 1, with Verma 41 already and her partner yet to score. The *day itself* is simply wonderful: so gawd knows what the seagulls are complaining about, so bitterly.

Rodrigues steadies her nerves (two fours) but then perishes to Cross, hoisting a leading edge out to Brunt. 76 for 2 in the 16th. Having made a good start, can India press on, with Mithali Raj supporting or ideally contributing to a further, dynamic partnership? They plainly need that – and it’s what they’ve lacked. As Raj faces Shrubsole, Cross wanders back to her fielding post with 2 for 11. Important moment?

Big, confident shout from Ecclestone, as Verma advances. Was she stumped? Jones seems keen but we await a review, from the square-leg ump. Takes some time to confirm. MASSIVE. 77 for 3. Verma made another tremendously watchable 44. England had built some pressure: she tried to respond with her trademark aggression but Ecclestone has done for her. Think most of us in the ground are now wondering if the visitors might subside, from here? With the conditions so magnificent it would feel like a crime, should the game be shortened by feeble batting.

But perhaps I do protest the visitors’ potential weaknesses too much? Hope so.
Oof! The ball bursts through Winfield-Hill’s hands, having been slashed at by Raj. Cross the unfortunate bowler but the pace off the bat barely makes that a chance. The Ecclestone and Cross combo is working well, for England. We have effectively two new batters – Harmanpreet Kaur and Mithali Raj – so (even though these two are Indian Icons, of a sort) the home side will look to continue and indeed tighten the squeeze. After 19 overs, the visitors are 81 for 3.

A change. Sciver is in. Lots of chat around Mithali’s role and whether she can transform her traditional, admittedly stylish batting into something 2021-worthy. As she plays out a maiden with carefully-steered defensive shots, we do wonder. A half-volley (from Cross) arrives, to the rescue. 85 for 3, off 20. I’m still squinting, as I peer out there. Summertime Spectacular. It’s Ecclestone, now, who’s first in the line of view. Cross is again racing in; the England left-armer is her deep third man. On the radio, Alex Hartley is notably critical of Raj’s continuing circumspection.

Sciver looks to be bowling at a reasonable lick but Raj pulls for four – to loud cheers, from her colleagues on the balcony. Slower one from the bowler. 94 for 3 from 23. So back to four an over. Time for Sarah Glenn. Could be interesting: she can spin it and of course this ground *has been known* to support slow bowling. To be honest, no screens available and the angle of the dangle makes guesswork of any possible deviation.

India have gone past 100. Kaur and Raj persist but they will know that after settling they must go again. Another moment of elegance, from Mithali Raj. Four, Sciver – mixing it up – having erred a little.

Have successfully called up Sky Sports on laptop, so now – for now – have visuals. Will report asap on degree of spin, or otherwise, from Glenn. Meanwhile, it’s Sciver banging one in there, to Raj, who has moved to 20. The bowler is an experienced and skilful operator: pace up and down and wrist position variable. Good, fair pitch, so trying to present different, sometimes subtly different challenges.

First look at Glenn with the benefit of telly. Hah! A full toss – clumped away – so no spin. Then, despite that cocked wrist and that turned hand, very little spin available, it seems. Brunt will offer a radically different contest. No obvious threat there but this may be okay, for England, if that run rate can remain subdued.

So what’s possible, or likely? 120-odd for 3 after 29 overs. Who’s to come? There *are batters* but how many of them can turbo-boost the innings? Deepti Sharma, possibly. Not clear the others can sustain any necessary barrage. If India use the overs it’s feeling like 220, to me. (That’s five an over from hereon in). India need significantly more. England I think will get that in 40 overs. Maybe less. Let’s see.

The England bowling has been goodish but not immaculate. Ditto the fielding. Glenn has offered a few outside or on leg stump and Brunt’s loopy slower-one is wide and hittable. Both Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur are set, so theoretically in a position to cut loose themselves. Raj smashes one back, low, to Glenn: another theoretical catch but not sure Chris Jordan would have taken that one. 139 for 3 after 32 overs. Drinks. Afterwards the visitors must surely push?

They do. Skier. Cross gets a caught and bowled. Harmanpreet gone, for 19. Sinking feeling? In the sense that I/we don’t want India to be all out 200, yes. But let’s be positive: Deepti Sharma, one of the visitor’s finest is joining us. She is tough, she can hit, she will get – i.e understand – what’s needed. Cross bursts in and bowls at 69mph, according to the gun.

Shrubsole is back, to try to capitalise. She – if the speed-gun is right? – also fires in two at 68/69 mph. (Possible but 64 or 5 is usual). 150 for 4 after 35, so run rate 4.29. Not enough. Mithali has 47, currently, from 69 – not bad, by her standards… but this may be the issue.

Hmm. Speed-gun. Saying 70 mph. It’s warm and Cross is trying but I wonder. Raj gets a free hit but Cross throws in a slower-ball bouncer which Raj cannot hit: it hits her, in fact, on the grill.

Sharma couldn’t score off her first five balls so no surprises that number six goes. Middled through midwicket; four, Shrubsole the bowler. Then she reaches, rather for another pull and cloths it aerially but safely towards the fielder in the deep. But we’re on the edge of something, you sense.

Yup. 160 for 5 as Deepti chips Cross rather cheaply to that same area, where Dunkley catches routinely. Pleased for Cross. Waxed lyrical about her movement and her flow previously: then – Bristol – she got little reward. Today her 4 for 30 will surely give her a fillip? With Sharma’s departure so my angst rises. Fear 200 all out and a short, non-competitive game. Rana had joined Raj, who is now just the one short of her half-century.

Rana takes Shrubsole up and over – barely – for a marginal miscue to long-on. Four. Cross returns, and looks fully extended in a good way. Rana plays a tad early and another skier flies up to Knight. It’s a dolly but the skipper juggles almost comically, before claiming the five-for for the elated bowler. 168 for 6. Good from England but the feeling rises that they have not needed to be special.

A minor lift for India, as Mithali Raj gets to her 50. 80 balls. Taniya Bhatia, diminutive and no doubt a little deflated, is in. Time for Ecclestone to mop up. Not immediately.

Sciver, from the Ian Botham Stand End. Slow then bouncy. Sharp and also cunning. Gets one to duck in, to Bhatia – hits pad. Another surge in the sun and the heat. 177 for 6 after 42.

Ecclestone. Single for Raj, downtown but Bhatia falls, caught behind, nicking. Seven down and likely to finish 70 or more behind a par score? Not a great look, for India. Bhatia made 2; done by a quicker ball, bowled full, setting her back there. Pandey is in.

She looks strong but Sciver knows too much – or at least draws another nick. Wide one and the batter swings and edges to the keeper. Ouch. This is almost cruel, now. 181 for 8 as the veteran Goswami lopes in. It may not get any easier for the visitors, as Brunt will bowl the 45th. Overall run rate 4.1. But five wickets lost for 36 in the last 11 overs.

Brunt is getting a bit of movement off the pitch: like India needed that, now. Over survived. Sciver is bowling out of the back of her hand – Goswami reads it. Then she goes one better – although Beaumont, at point, should have stopped it. A rare four.

Wee break as Raj gets some attention – not clear what the issue is. Brunt will bowl to her partner.

Misfield by Dunkley precipitates chaos… and a possible run out. The fielder firstly recovers to athletically save the four, then hurls in. Jones claims and knocks over the sticks (maybe with her elbow) but Raj has to go. Start the car. India are 195 for 9.

Mithali Raj proceeded pretty serenely – as she tends to – towards her 59. No issues with her consumption of balls today, effectively, as her anchor role was utterly central. But even she will have to look at just how the necessary dynamism is to be generated. Currently it isn’t there… and neither is the ability to withstand this admittedly strong (and strongly mixed) England attack.

We started by saying four an over is unacceptable – is an irrelevance, as England are showing, nowadays. Of course it is both politic and wise to throw in the qualification that only one team has batted here, so far. But the overwhelming likelihood is that the second team – England – will make mincemeat of this target.

Brunt is in, from the Marcus Trescothick Pavilion. Extravagant slower ball beats everything. Goswami is showing a little spirit but her principle task begins in about twenty minutes or so. The tall opening bowler may need to eviscerate half the England line-up for her side to have any chance. We reach the final over: Ecclestone will conclude.

India do reach the 220 suggested by yours truly. Credit to them for that. Goswami has made 19 and Poonam Yadav 10 when the latter is bowled, charging the final delivery. 221 all out at the close.

Do I win a fiver for that?

We resume, without Mithali Raj, who had been having some treatment on her neck, late-on during the Indian innings. Has ‘tweaked something’. Winfield-Hill and Beaumont will start the charge, for England – and I do expect it to be something of a charge. Goswami is creamed, classically, through the covers by Winfield-Hill, in the first over.

Pandey has a boldish appeal, first up, to Beaumont. Denied and they don’t review. Clutch of early wickets essential, naturally: don’t see it because the pitch is true and slowish. Plus the bowling isn’t, in my expectation going to be special – or special enough. So should be a cruise, or a blast, for the home side.

The openers will want to make a decent dent in the Indian total and then explode. If they get out then ditto for Knight, Sciver and Jones. Dunkley will probably be in at six but frankly I’m not sure she will bat. (I’m not that sure Sciver will bat – in at four, behind Knight, in all probability).

Aware how arrogant this might sound if something extraordinary happens but the batters named are so thoroughly grooved and professional that there’s not much wriggle-room there towards any diplomatic niceties. Goswami goes too wide and Beaumont clatters to the boundary. Pleasant evening. High sixties, some cloud, token, welcome breeze.

Pandey is getting some in-swing. So Beaumont is watchful. England are 13 for 0 after 4. From our position, Goswami looks enormous. She looked liked she meant it with the bat and she’s pumped, here.

Too right. She bowls Beaumont, with a full one which may have just left the England opener. Great ball – killer length. Disappointing for the batter – inevitably – but maybe crucial to the spectacle? 16 for 1 as Heather Knight strides in.

Pandey must back her partner up. She looks committed, as always but the skipper drills her beautifully along the deck for four, through extra cover. Quite a start. But fair play, the bowler responds by beating her: cruelly she also beats the keeper, meaning four more to the total. A slightly petulant throw from Pandey, which struck Knight on the pad references the bowler’s anger. India are up for it, which is good – which is right.

Huge appeal for a possible caught behind. Nope. Great stop at mid-on. Anxiety, verbals, *competitive cricket*. It has, of course, to last.

Knight, in particular, seems well-suited to seeing this out. She is classy, stoical, consistently durable. Winfield-Hill is leaving, then threading a near-yorker through midwicket for a boundary. England are 34 for 1 after 8. It brightens again – stunningly.

It’s not exactly a storm… but England are weathering it. They can inch happily forward before they go, at a moment of their choice. Our first spin, from Deepti Sharma, from the Marcus Trescothick End. Slowish and loopy. Bats left-nanded but bowls right arm off-breaks. Appeals, loudly – but it may have been an invention. Knight looks keen to race those singles. We will have spin twins: Poonam Yadav. She. Is. Tiny.

Seems weird on this majestic, cider-drinker’s dream of a night, but the lights are on. Go figure. Perhaps they help Winfield-Hill see this one: boom! Six, straight. Exciting. First six of the day: *statement*. Nine from the over.

Love the way Knight runs. She ‘hares’: not at all elegantly but with a kind of desperate determination. Says everything about her deep energy. But… she slashes just a little at Poonam Yadav and the ball is sailing short. Easy catch for Goswami at mid-off. The England captain has rather thrown that away for 10. England 49 for 2.

Sciver joins Winfield-Hill, who may throttle back a touch. Or not. She unceremoniously clonks Yadav for four. Bold – and beautifully executed. With lots of runs needed – despite that low target – had thought that we might get half an hour’s ‘re-building’, from England.

Next over and Winfield-Hill again punishes Sharma. Edgy, but brilliant. She has 31 and Sciver 2 as we break for drinks with the home side at 60 for 2.

Sciver is tall and athletic and hits hard. She gets runs. Winfield-Hill is looking both bullish and stylish, somehow. If the two of them get comfortable this may spell trouble, for India. So changes. Sneh Rana is in. The England opener is striking her cleanly. Thought strikes I *really should be* drinking cider… but I barely drink pints, these days and never the applestuff.

If India are to have any chance you would think they must shift these two, plus Jones, plus Dunkley. None of the remaining batters are utter bunnies but the current and next two would expect to score a few on here, today. Jones has quality (and strokes) and Dunkley still has a point to prove. The lull that is developing – if lulls can do that – suggests that a Cruise to Victory By Umpteen Wickets becomes more likely. So the contest, if there is to be one, needs a wicket. Sciver eases back to Rana and takes an easy single. 81 for 2 after 18.

Pandey is in from the Botham Pavilion. Fast arm. Drama! Winfield-Hill caught behind, by Bhatia, standing up. She made 42.

More drama!! Sciver has lofted one towards mid-off. Huge but maybe contrived celebration? Long wait, during which we look behind us at the temporary screen. Clear that India are having the proverbial larf: bounced, in front, clearly – and the fielder will have known it. Bit naughty, arguably, although pretty much everybody does it. Weirdly, that may fuel the anger and determination of both sides. At least, at 85 for 3, it feels like we may see a contest.

Jones is a player but we’ve seen her throw her wicket away. She may not want to do that, now. Sun still bright and warm; conditions fabulous. Runs are there but there is also some real intent, in the field. Similar focus from the batters, mind, as Sciver clips to leg and absolutely bullets to get that second.

Wow. That energy from India is seeping through – affecting stuff. Sciver has edged behind! Has this ‘non-contest’ turned? No review needed – Sciver has walked and we are 92 for 4. Dunkley is into something of a maelstrom: huge test of nerve, for her. She misses the first ball.

A Bath Gin balloon has loomed rather ominously into view. It will pass over or very close to the ground within a minute or so. Bet they can hear the chat from the fielders, up there.

We have one of those wonderful situations where runs are not that difficult to come by (really) but composure is. This is Dunkley’s first ODI. Amy Jones is relatively experienced but (without being at all malicious) I’m unclear on her temperament. She likes to flow – she can do that thing. Whether she can dig in, first, before building, we shall see. Good job I decided earlier not to drive back to Pembs, tonight.
Likely be here til 9.30.

England reach the 100 in the 25th over, to significant applause, meaning they (too) are suddenly finding that four an over barrier a challenge. Have no idea what happens from here, now. Thought Sciver and Winfield-Hill might finish this, half an hour ago!

Couple of encouraging signs, for Jones. Skilful hands and power, too as she batters two boundaries before dinking neatly down to fine leg and bolting for two more. There is a *possible* caught and bowled when she smashes back to Rana at catchable height but it’s fiercely struck. Jones has gone to 19 and Dunkley 6 as Poonam Yadav continues.

Rightly, the ball is being hit with some intent and singles are being raced. Sometimes slightly scarily. Mini break-out as Jones biffs to the boundary. Pressure and pressure-release, now – just as it should be. Couple of errors in the field: not much doubt that England are the better outfit in that respect. (mind you, etc etc)…

Deepti Sharma is greeted with a cut to the boundary. Mixed over, in truth. Dunkley will have enjoyed a couple of solid strikes. 131 for 4, off 28.

Comfort break – as so often – brings a wicket. Jones, surprisingly, is caught, off Yadav, by the sub, Yadav. 133 for 5 as the indomitable Brunt enters the fray.

Brunt can bat but can also be impulsive. She won’t like that a game she will think England should have put to bed is still live. This *is*, as Izzy Westbury has just said on radio, “all about temperament” now.

We are looking straight into a sinking sun. It’s above backward point as Goswami runs in to Brunt. Defended. Every boundary a mini-triumph, now – even when miscued. Dunkley gets Yadav away – just. Have liked Goswami’s spirit, today. She’s in again now and slapping it hard. Pad. Brunt matches her for grit: all day. However, the fiery England bowler almost falls, as the sub fielder gets a hand to a sharp cut, flashing over her head. Another escape and another ratcheting-up of the tension.

After 33 overs, England are five down, with a fairly straightforward run rate to overcome. But this is less than the half of it. We are in wild territory. Dunkley relieves just a little of the angst, by thrashing a six, off Pandey. Stunner. Still those verbals remain, out on the park – essential, surely, for India to keep the revs high?

Deepti Sharma is the latest change, from the Ian Botham Stand. Brunt clips her to leg. With a theoretical 15 overs remaining, England have 157 for 5. They need 222 to win. Do the math.

Brunt battles to get Yadav away for four more. The light is an issue in the sense that the sun is blazing but shadows – and the evening – are falling gently. Poonam Yadav is bowling so slowly it’s scary. You, as batter, can invent a thousand evils as the ball loops tantalisingly towards you. Much discussion, presumably around whether the Best Bowlers bowl now – given the lowish requirement. It’s Rana.

My latest dangerous opinion is that Brunt is likely to bring this home – quite possibly with Dunkley. Brunt is amongst the toughest, the most competitive out there. You just know she thinks England are waay the better team (and she may be right).

Poonam Yadam follows again. There’s an uneasy ease in the game. Dunkley hits Rana for four to go to 43 – may have been another misfield. That hurts. The over closes with another confident straight drive, for a single, from Dunkley. 39 overs done. 178 for 5. More balls available than runs needed: should be – ahem – a doddle. The mighty Goswami might have other ideas.

Could be her re-appearance precipitates an unseemly scramble, for a single. All safe. We have a review but it feels like another phoney war. Umpire seemed clear it was pad… and he was right. Touch of late-in-the-day purple breaking out, in the sun. Deepti Sharma has it to her right, as she comes in from the Ian Botham Stand End.

38 needed for the win as we enter the 41st. Inching home, England, with Dunkley close to a very impressive 50. Pandey offers some pace, and Dunkley can cuff it away to third man, for four. She will be thrilled to get to 53. Light going, now – sun dipping – it’s that batty time. (There must be plenty bats, local, what with cathedrals and all about).

Brunt has all the feels, now, as she gets Sharma away, through point. Four. It’s happening. India have battled better and longer and to greater effect than some of us thought probable but this is done. The event and the series needed this to be a contest and it has been. A wildish, eccentric, noisy, brash one. As a ripple of applause – a noticeably more comfortable ripple – goes round the ground, for the England 200, we start to think of home.

Goswami still offers, followed by Deepti Sharma but Dunkley’s contribution has been decisive. Brunt is enjoying a slap to leg – just for a single. The sun is finally below stand height, behind long-on, as Rana wheels in. In every sense, things are closing.

Time for a little more boom. With less than 20 needed, Dunkley carts Goswami to midwicket for another four. But mostly it’s bits and pieces.

Rana must try to avoid being clattered for the grandstand finish. She manages.

Four needed, off Sharma – two taken. Then one.

Brunt should finish this. She does. Her emphatic pull and characteristic fist-pump are the last of it. A scrambling, flighty, gallumping, consistently inconsistent game which re-establishes at least a little credibility for India – when they might have had none. Fifteen balls remaining, five wickets unspent, England the winners. The ground is an indescribable glory, bathed in arrogant, defiant, humble, disappearing sun. Trainwards, with haste.

Bristol. With hope in our hearts…

Big Call. Not getting paid is only a wee part. Love the opportunity – the privilege – of being able to report back to the universe the gambol that is international cricket but driving *lots* into the likelihood of a significantly rain-affected match is challenging. Even I – or is it mainly I, given that the other guys ‘n gals are gainfully employed? – do have those ‘how to justify’ conversations with myself. As usual, the inviolable optimism thing kicked in. I thought about a return to slumberville (in sunny Pembrokeshire) but na: up, shower and off for 7.15am. Because you do, yes?

So Bristol – in the knowledge of rain – but with hope in my heart. Lights on. At 10.31am. Coolish windyish. No precipitation, currently. Heather Knight has won the toss and England will bowl first. Team news: Sarah Glenn and Fran Wilson are in, for England; Ekta Bisht, for India.

This means that Dan(n)i Wyatt is dropped. Strongish signal from the coach: Wyatt has been a good contributor for some years; great fielder – maybe England’s most athletic? – and proactive, attacking batter. But her dismissals – too often after about 20-odd ‘positive’ yet maybe streak-tastic runs – were prone to be howlers. Caught somewhat sloppily at cover or extra; flashing without convincing. Coach Lisa Keightley is pushing the expectation buttons, a little. ‘We have to be dynamic but effective… and consistent’. Thus the standards are raised: rightly.

England’s black tee-shirts (in case you can’t read them) say ‘We stand together against sexism/ableism/racism etc’. Worthy and pointed, given the ongoing discussions and indeed investigations into race etc, within the game. In other news, I am the only media person in the room – which is large and deliberately well-ventilated – not wearing a coat. (#FirstWorldProblems?) As we approach the start of play it appears we will get going on time, with a decent prospect for play, initially…

Brunt will open to Smriti Mandhana: two Big Guns. Full toss but extravagant swing. Single, bringing Verma into this. No slip. 3 from the over. First ball suggested Shrubsole will be *in the game*. She is, but Mandhana clips her easily enough to square leg, for another single.

Tiny bit full and the inswinger is beautifully eased past mid-on, for four, by Verma. Quality. 8 without loss after 2, India. Decent start from both sides, in fact.

Little bit of shape in the air again, from Brunt – who tends to get a bit less than Shrubsole. Mandhana untroubled. First short one slammed in: no real bounce but Verma doesn’t deal with it entirely comfortably. Swished rather, slightly aerially, behind square.

Shrubsole getting those length/line calculations right, now. The wind is assisting her inswing, coming in obliquely from our left as we sit in the Bristol Pavilion End. Touch of width offers Mandhana the chance to stay deep and cut through point: boundary.

Gear-change. Verma blazes Brunt up and over mid-off, before guiding behind point – 8 runs to the total. But then the young Indian star comes over all agricultural, heaving rather wildly, cross-batted. The mishit flies straight to Shrubsole at mid-on, who takes the catch watchfully. Big Moment – and a bit of a gift. Verma gone for 15.

Poonam Raut has joined Mandhana. Conditions breezy but perfectly playable; light fair. After 6 overs, India are 23 for 1. Decent shout from Brunt against Raut. Live it looked too high and Knight discounts the review for that reason.

Shrubsole into her fourth. Noticeable that she is bowling more cross-seamers/straight balls than in her first two overs. A Plan, or more because it’s tough to control that inswing in this wind?

Interestingly, Knight stays with Brunt into her fifth. India not exactly stalled… but the scoring rate around three, per over. Review. Redfern had given it out after a looooong look but it’s missing. Raut stays. We remain 27 for 1 after 9.

Not for long. Shrubsole’s bold, full length claims Mandhana. The batter had rather ambitiously eased back to look to cut square but the ball simply flies through. Castled. England in the proverbial box seat at 27 for 2 in the 10th over. The elegant left-hander had made 10, from 25. Skipper Mithali Raj joins Raut. Time for Sciver from the Ashley Down Road End. Two in the blockhole.

Shrubsole will bowl her sixth. She’s having a right giggle with Ecclestone, posted at mid-off. No wonder the bowler’s happy: she has 1 for 13 from that opening bundle.

India really do need to break out and Raut makes a start. Drives through the covers for four. Knight remains in there, though, for Sciver – at slip. Raut leans in again and strokes through cover; four more. Sciver responds with a genuine bouncer. 41 for 2, off 13. Cross for Shrubsole, from the pavilion.

Biggish shout, first ball. Going over. Do like the way Cross maintains her form, through delivery. There is a wee sense though, that she needs to do more with the ball, to be a top-level threat. She can find bounce, sometimes, but minimal swing or cut off the pitch.

Sciver, meanwhile, is going short against Raj, who misjudges and turns her body to take the blow. Ouch. Symptomatic, maybe, of a relatively flat-footed start, from India. Advantage England at drinks: 45 for 2 after 15. Noon, and it’s brightened, if anything, out there.

Cross. Glanced, with care, through the vacant slip area by Mithali Raj. Just the one. Full delivery is steered nicely through extra cover by Raut – 50 up. Sciver bounces the diminutive Raut. The rate of scoring plainly has to rise. Sciver again slaps one in there… but Poonam is not for biting. 53 for 2 after 17.

Mithali edges Cross wide of Knight at first/second slip. The bowler is very much doing that ‘plugging away’ thing, to some effect.

62 for 2 after 20 and we have Ecclestone, from Ashley Down. And a question: who’s going to bring the boom, for India? This has been too pedestrian for too long. Will an incoming Harmanpreet or Deepti Sharma bring something *refreshing?* Or will a message (or threat) from the coach change the vibe? Bit flat, currently – which is just what England want, of course.

A drive through the covers reminds us that a) there is a crowd b) Indians are mad for it and c) Raj and Raut do get it. Can that mini-statement be sustained?

Ecclestone has Winfield-Hill at slip but a couple of singles send her back to deepish gully. Accuweather (I’m looking and comparing with Met Office about every three seconds) suggesting we better look out from around 2 pm. 60 per cent chance of rain, thereafter. Best hope is showers – or that the marginally more optimistic Met Office offer is closer to the truth of it. Or that we get lucky.

Wow. Raut swings Cross with some violence over midwicket. Would be a fairly hearty wallop to claim a six… but it lands only a teeny bit short, if at all. (Looked to have clonked the barrier, live and not that clear on our replay – which admittedly is breaking up). India need more of this aggression but it comes with a risk: Poonam Raut miscues Cross to Ecclestone at mid-off. 83 for 3, in the 26th. The Raj/Raut partnership had reached 50 but India needed to shake this up. Enter Harmanpreet Kaur.

Glenn – the leg-spinner – will have a go from the Ashley Down Road End. She can spin it but not much sign of grip there. Back to Ecclestone. She draws a faint edge from Kaur and Jones pockets, behind the sticks. That feels significant: difficult not to immediately pile on the meteorological qualifications but 80-odd for 4 off 27 leaves India in a hole. Except the incoming Deepti Sharma has often evidenced great grit… and proper dynamism. She will need both here, to keep her side in the match. Approaching 1 pm. Weather good, England way ahead.

Predictably, Sharma steps down to Ecclestone and middles. Four, high, and beautifully straight. Then Raj does the same to Glenn. India recognise we’re in a pivotal moment. Runs must come. Can the England spinners keep their discipline? Good test upcoming.

Ecclestone – who is brilliant – isn’t flawless. One or two legside wides have crept in. Boisterous verbals and hoots as India get to 100… but in the 32nd over. Meaning run rate still barely above 3. Drinks and time to re-consider. Still no threat to play.

Like the balance that Glenn brings to the England side. Tough to keep the leg-spin option both threatening and consistent but she has made a good start to her international career; appearing to have the durability you *just might need* as a potential victim of a mid-innings onslaught. But a change; Brunt has switched and now returns from underneath us in the Bristol Pavilion End. Her first ball again has a little shape. Aware I’m a bit relentless with my Brunty-lurv but she’s looking fit, strong, determined and has shown great hands in the field as well as being focussed and economical with the ball.

Tellingly, Deepti Sharma – after having made a brief statement of positivity, early doors – has 18 off 36, as I write. Mithali Raj has 46 off 90. Do the math.

Sharma spoons one, aerially, down to fine leg – falls just short. Could be the fielder didn’t pick it up, immediately. Brunt a tad unimpressed. Again she invites a biff to leg, going shortish on or around leg stump. Then short over off stump, to Mithali. No dramas. 134 for 4 after 40.

Deepti sweeps Glenn to fine leg and beats Beaumont’s dive. Then thrashes forward past mid-off. Raj dances down and pushes for 1 to take herself to 47. Better, from the visitors. Shrubsole is back.

She is unceremoniously slapped over midwicket for four. The crowd – well most of it – love that. Raj beyond 50. Wonderful response, from Shrubsole, who surely has Sharma plum, with a ver-ry full one? Yes. Gone for a goodish 30 (which may have needed to be 50, off the same number of balls). India 149 for 5 in the 42nd. We appear to have technical issues with Sue Redfern’s links to the outside world.

Vastraka must defend one on middle, from Shrubsole, first up. She does. And now Cross has changed ends. Oops. Except she hasn’t. It’s Sciver. She bounces Vastrakar and the batter takes her on, slapping it tennis-style through midwicket for four. Quick glance at the telly to my left confirms that the run rate is currently 3.64. Not enough: hence that palpable urgency from the visitors, now.

Raj heaves Shrubsole over her shoulder, without really connecting. Vastrakar follows that with an emphatic straight drive, high, for four more. Then a mis-hit drive flies out through backward point. And a poor one from Shrubsole – best part of a foot wide – is merely helped over fine leg. Big, helpful over, for India. 171 for 5. Sciver – so miserly in the Test – is tasked with holding the charge.

Knight then turns to Ecclestone: five overs remain. Time stands still… as Mithali Raj just gets it all wrong… to a floaty one which proceeds untroubled to the stumps – the batter having presumably changed her mind then offered no meaningful stroke. Bit weird but massive, for England. Strong contribution from the Indian captain but she leaves us, on 72. End of the 46th and the visitors are 181 for 6. To make matters worse, Vastrakar promptly clatters the ball into her own foot and is clearly in some discomfort. Brunt from the Ashley Down Road End.

Loose one clips the pad and trundles off down, for leg byes. (All donations gratefully received). Feeble slice goes crushingly close to Knight, at extra cover. Vastrakar got the memo and has reached 15 off 16. Three to come, 191 for 6: back to Ecclestone.

Vastrakar has fallen on her face, trying to reverse the left-arm offie. She is plum and ball-tracking confirms. 192 for 7. Shikha Pandey has not much time to do quite a lot.

Ah. With things moving on, we have failed to welcome Taniya Bhatia, who preceded Pandey into the fray. Forgive us. Brunt will bowl the penultimate over, running in towards us, from the Ashley Down Road End. Dot balls.

The bowler, typically, is outwardly angry with a minor mis-field, from Dunkley but then – again typically – gathers to bowl an extravagant, loopy, slower ball. It’s wide but Jones gathers and stumps… or does she? Painfully close. Given out, eventually. Bhatia not hugely impressed but has to depart for 7. 197 for 8. India will barely get past 200: Ecclestone will close this out.

Goswami is in. Ecclestone beats her. Then Cross can’t quite get hold of a boom to deep mid-on. An un-explosive end to a moderate batting performance leaves England needing 202 to win this. Feels like only the weather – or *adjustments* because of weather – might prevent a home win, here. Food. Tasty beef tagine. Thankyou, guys!

The teams return. Winfield-Hill will face Goswami: Beaumont the other opener for England. No immediate threat from the skies. Great ball which leaves Winfield-Hill and ‘deserves’ an edge; finds none. Then two runs off a slight inside tickle; ball theoretically driven but instead squeezes out towards the square leg boundary. Beaumont will face Pandey.

Stifled shout. Nothing. Then follow-up is a big inswinger – doing too much? – which precipitates an unconvincing scramble for a single. But we have a review. Missing by miles. Pandey looking strong and committed but strays too straight: clipped squarish for two more. The legside wide and another tickle towards the 45 brings England to 9 without loss after 2 but there will be some encouragement for India, there.

Beaumont gets off the mark with a gift, from Goswami. Shortish ball sits up around leg stump; turned away for one with some ease. Winfield-Hill then creams one forward of point, before going aerial over midwicket – both boundaries. Good energy about the England pair, here. 22 for 0 after 4. Weather helpful.

Slightly from nowhere, Winfield-Hill nicks one and is gone for a briskish 16. Possibly left her a touch: the Indians’ delight tells you know they needed that. Enter the captain. With pleasing symmetry – almost – Lizzie on my right is saying ‘the rain is starting in 16 minutes’. (I’m guessing not but who am I to contradict our friends at Accuweather?)

Wide one from Pandey is satisfyingly clattered through the covers, by Beaumont. And another. 32 for 1 after 6, England. Great running and awareness from Knight and her partner brings another two, off the hip, sprinted. Then the cleanest of strikes from Knight races away through cover. The heavens remain supportive but plainly the home side is looking both to stay ahead of any potential Duckworth-Lewis issue and, ideally, streak to victory uninterrupted.

Knight steers another beauty through cover: four more. This is Proper White-ball Cricket. Beaumont’s flourish pops the ball down, up and then over the bowler and her stretch and clout through cover brings up 50. Exhibition stuff, this.

Finally, a moral victory from Vastrakar… but Beaumont’s missed it. 52 for 1 after 8. First view of Bisht’s fairly eccentric round-arm off-spin. Interesting – and good call to make the change. Sharma will become her spin-twin. Between them they have serious work to do: England have proceeded beyond 60 in just 10 overs. Beaumont again effects the drive-block which pings off the deck in front of her toes, before looping up and over the bowler for another boundary. She’s having fun, alright. (So am I: really would have been *so-o easy* to take the negative view of those very negative weather forecasts, this morning).

Beaumont can do no wrong: she smashes Bisht over mid-off. After 12 overs, England have maintained their six-an-over run rate, with Beaumont on an excellent 39 off 35 and Knight on 13 off 16. Very good all-round performance, this, from the home side.

Bisht is bowling around, approaching obliquely. No meaningful turn for her. Knight ver-ry cutely guides her, with soft hands, down to fine leg: a kind of no-follow-through paddle. Two.

Brief quiet period but the batters are even now alive to gently-nurdled singles: in utter control. Drinks and England are strolling home on 82 for 1. Weather is with them – if anything, improving. At this rate they will only need another twenty overs. (*Fatal*).

Gor blimey. Absolute peach, from Bisht – it looped, it span – it bowls Knight. Exceptional delivery. Gone for 18; delight for the visitors. But this brings in Sciver, who is entirely likely to be looking to re-state England’s dominance. Let’s see.

With the skies brightening – really! – it feels like we will see a game completed. We need 20 overs minimum, for that but I’m lumping on a single block of continuous, enjoyable action. India need further breakthroughs to make this competitive: reckon most of us in the ground would like to see a tightening before any sun-drenched denouement. (*Fatal revisited).

Sciver claims four – twice. The second being a notably intimidating dance down towards Bisht. Then Beaumont stoops and sweeps to fine leg, beating the fielder, to get to her 50. Fine knock. England reach 100 in the 19th over – so going at five. Not unthinkable that they might get to 202 in 35/36 overs – certainly if these two build a further partnership.

Harmanpreet Kaur will turn her arm over, from the Ashley Down Road End. She nearly makes something happen immediately but Ekta Bisht makes a right mess of a top-edged sweep… and drops Sciver. Poor effort, in truth. England are fully 40 runs ahead of where India were at the 20 over stage. Pooja Vastrakar joins us and slings one down at 67mph, to start: wonder if England might quite like that bit of pace back on the ball?

Beaumont middles one powerfully to square leg but just for the single. Vastrakar responds with a nice, floaty yorker which the England opener keeps out. Erm… the lights are on BUT I’M NOT SURE WE NEED THEM. Brighter than at any stage.

Vastrakar looks a really good athlete but England have statements to make. Both batters looking to strike and follow-through. Nice contest – and good over. 115 for 2 after 23.

Pandey is back, from Ashley Road. She gets away with a short, wide one: Sciver unable to time it. Then a deceptive slower ball. Followed by another, rather frustrated-looking miss. And a review, for a possible outside-edge. (Given not out). No contact: Sciver remains – but does she remain frustrated?

No. On-drive for four. Bisht has changed ends. Poor one is easily biffed away behind square – Beaumont going to 63. Fifty partnership up, as Pandey is cut wide for the one. No ball bowled – free hit. (Hit firmly but mid-on gets there). Repeat repeat: no ball, free hit. This time no mistake, from Sciver. Tennis-batted to the mid-on boundary. 141 for 2 after 28. 61 needed: greyer but from inside seems okay, still, weather-wise.

Beaumont blams the most fabulous, classical off-drive over extra cover… twice. The second is close-ish to the fielder but was such an elegant strike the marginal mis-time feels forgivable. Sharma switches to Ashley Down. Sciver is advancing but not beating mid-on. End of the over and England need just 49 from 120 balls. Ah. Speck of rain and the groundsmen are getting ready.

Sciver connects as fine rain suddenly sweeps in. Four. Will they just continue… or will it get too messy out there?

Anything could happen but it appears – as the players bizarrely take drinks – to have stopped raining. The third umpire is on and having discussions with the on-field officials. It’s playable and we go on. With Sharma. Sciver goes to 51, with a two to square leg. Everything points to fireworks and Sciver dances down, before clattering over mid-on. Four. When Sharma drops short, she is punished once more – it’s gunned to square leg, hard. 176 for 2, with 32 overs bowled. Last rites.

Harmanpreet Kaur has the unenviable job of stepping up from the Bristol Pavilion Stand End. Sciver dismisses a poor one to fine leg. Then the coup de wotnots: an extravagantly maker’s-name-tastic straight six. 15 needed as we enter the 34th. The batters hug… because that was a smiley moment, for England.

Goswami, from Ashley Down. Beaumont, with that characteristic low centre of gravity, pulls for four. Nine required. Harmanpreet is methodically, if not theatrically drying the ball but the singles are being picked off. Until Beaumont enjoys the moment yet more, heaving Kaur over long-on for another tremendous 6. The scores are level.

We finish with a wide. (Hmm. Would Harmanpreet do that deliberately?) No matter. This has been a hammering, a compleat performance from Ingerland (and Wales) and a particularly enjoyable day. They lose only two wickets in their reply, having bowled and fielded with genuine application, skill and consistency. They look a good side. Gratifying for all of us who have travelled to watch; it’s been a Day That Might Not Have Been. India have work to do: specifically they must find a higher tempo with the bat. On – and home – smiling.

Things of interest.

Enjoy the period pre-game. Interesting, as a coach – at an alaaaarmingly lower grade – to watch warm-ups/drills/inter-reactions/relationships. In the minutes so far, having arrived at the ground about 9.30, I have noted…

It’s cooler/breezier.

Amy Jones doing individual (keeping) drills, early doors.

Goswami going through extensive high-stepping and groin-opening stuff.

How bad a lot of these players (and coaches) are at footie.

How far Deepti Sharma was behind two of her senior colleagues, over a 4x 20 metre shuttle run.

How lovely and genuinely comradely some of the chats around the edges seem, between opposing players.

How prevalent general movement and co-ordinating with bigger balls/different balls/football and rugby balls is. How coaching is both sophisticated and pleasingly generic and ‘sporty’. But also how long the day is, for these players.

Encouragingly, despite the pressures, how many laughs the players are enjoying. After all, The Craic has to be central, right?

How well wrapped-up, the Indian players, in particular, are needing to be, this morning. Temperature with breeze factored in – they call it ‘feels like’, do they not? – about 13 degrees, I reckon. (Bring a coat).

I’ve been sitting like Billy-no-Mates somewhat apart from my colleagues in the Media Centre, in order to benefit from both the cooler, fresher air coming in through the open door and to get a view straight down the strip. (Always do that if possible). Wednesday I really needed that air-flow. Today I may have to shift into the warm!

Looking out there at the wind; blowing almost straight down the ground, from the Ashley Down Road End towards my open door in the Bristol Pavilion. A cross-wind might have assisted Shrubsole’s sexy inswing and arguably Brunt’s less dramatic away-movement/leg-cutters. Interesting to see which ends these players choose or get directed towards.

Hunch is that Cross – who, without looking extravagantly threatening, seemed to be finding her flow as things progressed, yesterday – will run in from Ashley Down and try to generate some decent pace. Don’t expect her to open, by any stretch, but have genuinely enjoyed watching her particularly fluent approach and delivery, so far. Could be that she is doing less with the ball than Shrubsole and Brunt, but she has something and imagine she could get on a roll, somewhere, because of that groove and her natural athleticism (whatever that is).

10.56 am. I reckon there are about 70 people in the crowd.

Day for bowlers, you would think, but two decent bats out there at the start, for India. Deepti Sharma and Harmanpreet Kaur. Sciver, interestingly, will open to Sharma. Lights on. One slip and a gully. No dramas.

Early review, for Ecclestone. Full, catching Kaur half-forward. Live, looked out and the umpire has to signal her error. Out. Harmanpreet has to exit before adding to her score: she departs on 4. This will be very watchable: Ecclestone twirling expectantly, with fielders around the bat. Tough period ahead, for India, surely?

Wondered if Sciver had started (from opposite me) with a view to bowling as quickly as possible; she is, after all, a very good athlete. Not looking that she’s got that instruction so far. Lowish 60s on the speed-gun. Ecclestone, meanwhile, is doing her thing, with obvious relish. She spirals one very full again, at Bhatia, who promptly misses it by miles – bat half-tucked, behind the pad – and is out, lbw, after reviewing. Messy morning looms large, for the visitors, who have yet to score. They remain on 187, now for 7.

Rana troubles the scorers for 2 but there are four close catchers around her. She sees Ecclestone’s over out.

More Sciver. Jones comes up to the stumps. Sharma is now 20 balls without scoring – but looks calmish. She clips one to leg for a single. The bad news is that this means she must face Ecclestone. Strangely, the tall spinner offers a real gift, dropping outside leg; the balls sits up and Sharma can slap it away with ease, for four. Poor ball. 194 for 7 after 66. Quite rightly, Knight changes Sciver – on this occasion, for herself.

The skipper drops onto a tidy line and length: maiden.

Ecclestone returns and finds an absolute peach, biting – spitting, maybe – and turning to find the edge. Jones juggles, rather but pouches. Rana, who had looked relatively secure, is gone for 2. 197 for 8 and India still need 50 to avoid the follow-on. Knight comes around, to the left-handed Sharma. Guessing the batter doesn’t like the silly mid on and off, posted. She swings hard at successive balls, scoring two to midwicket off the second. Sharma – now 10 – is only the third Indian bat to reach double-figures: weirdly, the first two (Mandhana and Verma) almost reached 100.

Ecclestone has 4 for 70 at this point. Vastraka has joined Sharma and will now face. Sharma may have *taken the view* that boom-time arriveth. She swings hard at Knight and the visitors go through the 200-mark. Could India possibly save the follow-on? Seems unlikely but Deepti Sharma has quality and grit. Quite a challenge, though, to garner runs without gifting chances and whilst farming the strike with real care.

Vastraka takes advantage of another slightly short and wide one, from Ecclestone, who has been good but not immaculate. Four through the covers. At drinks – presumably hot drinks? – we are 207 for 8. Knight may have a wee concern that more pace on the ball might precipitate easier runs but I would get Shrubsole on, pronto.

Instead we get Dunkley. Right arm leg-spin. Quite a moment for her. Generous spin but too straight and Vastraka can connect hard, for a single. Then for four. First ball spin was encouraging but 10 come from the over. A dilemma, then.

We still have Ecclestone from this Pavilion End. She errs to leg and is punished, by Deepti Sharma. It’s not a great over, in truth. India have closed that follow-on calculation right down: need only 23, now, to get there. Brunt replaces Dunkley after that single over. She is predictably on the money but Vastraka defends her competently.

Shrubsole has done a little warming-up but Knight sticks with Ecclestone at the Pavilion End. (I may not have done). Sharma takes her for four through the covers. 230 for 8, 17 needed… and we have a ball change. Brunt will like the feel of that. Two slips and a gully come in.

They are superfluous. Brunt bowls Vastrakar with a beaut that clips the top of off. Classic stuff from a fabulous bowler. Big Moments, these: Goswami intrudes and pinches a single. A smidge of rain on the glass may add a further, less welcome dimension.

Could come over all smug, here but will merely report that Anya Shrubsole has come on and comprehensively bowled Goswani to finish off the Indian innings. All out 231. Surely they will be re-inserted? (They have been).

Brunt will re-engage, with Mandhana. What a prospect. A little width is penalised – four, to backward point. Then Verma eases one through midwicket; four more. Nine off the over, rather incongruously. Can Shrubsole keep it tighter or apply some real pressure? A little. Two from the over for a nicely-timed clip through midwicket.

Verma steers Brunt beautifully passed mid-off for four more: god what a player, she is! Early but this is a thoroughly impressive start by these openers, in near-feverish conditions. England could barely have had tails raised higher and yet India have flown to 25 for 0. Fabulous.

*Moment:* Mandhana steers a wide tempter from Brunt to Sciver, at second slip. It’s held and she’s gone, for 8. Lunch, with that counter-punch from England feeling ver-ry significant…

Your author takes the opportunity during the break to leg it to his digs – 387 yards – and grab a hoodie and a pair of jeans. (It really has gotten parky in the Press Box). There is a tickle of rain but it really is questionable as to whether a delay is called for. But we do have a delay.

13.59 and they appear to be preparing to shift the pitch covers. It’s categorically not raining. Some dryish applause as the wee blue Kubota(?) trundles off with the three-piece pitch protector in tow. An encouraging start. Now the lads are thwacking away at the bowlers’ marks with that prehistoric-looking tamper weapon-thing. As they do that, we hear the announcement for a re-start at ten past two. Looking around, it appears we should get a decent tranche of play – although given the strength of the breeze, we can’t rule out the possibility that weather might blow in.

Can confirm that Chris Watts and Sarah Redfern – the umps – are marching out…

Interestingly, Deepti Sharma has been promoted to join Verma out there. Left-hand right-hand combination? Presumably. Sharma will face Brunt. Long sleeves aboundeth, on the jumper front, in the field. So coldish.

Verma eases Shrubsole to midwicket for a single, taking her to 21. Brunt bowls a 68mph yorker, to Verma; watchfully kept out. A careless throw from Brunt strikes Verma – ‘not a great look’ according to Henry Ooosits, on TMS. Few immediate alarms, meaning England may need to engage their more patient gears. More cloud.

Brunt bounces Verma – but wide. 9 overs in and we have a kind of calm, which will absolutely suit India, and disappoint England just a little. 33 for 1. The umpires, erm… swap a hat – no, two, floppy hats – for caps. Verma beautifully guides Shrubsole to third man: soft, delicious hands. Jones is standing up, to Shrubsole, for Verma. Boom – the youngster cuts to the boundary, and that fabulous, nutty sound rings out: middled. Brunt responds with an arcing, middle-stump-threatening delivery which is just defended.

Verma repeats that wristy cut behind square: again timed, again four. She has 35 in quick time. The pitch is still holding up: i.e. no major inconsistencies. Slowish, yes, offers a little but absolutely fair to the batters. (This does not, of course excuse the original sin… but let’s not re-visit that again). Change is needed, for England and they turn to Ecclestone, from the Bristol Pavilion End.

I rather hope they give Dunkley another go from Ashley Down. Sure she got collared but her very first delivery span notably sharply. She might surprise somebody, or change something. Brunt is endlessly scraping away at her footholds down t’other end. She will continue.

Verma takes a wild swing: misses. The thought strikes that if something flies to slip it might take some catching – cold hands.

Kate Cross, for the first time today. Sky looking bit intimidatingly grey – but not necessarily rain-filled – behind her. Suddenly the ball is behind her. Verma steps out and crunches an extraordinary, straightish on-drive for four. But good response from the bowler, who draws an edge that Jones must surely catch, if she were standing back. She’s not. First slip can’t get there and it flies away once more. Utter hunch but I think Cross should be asked to plug away for eight overs. (Except ah – precipitation may intrude).

Looks and feels like October out there now. The umpires have consulted but plough on. May not be long. Consulting again… and they’re off. 15.10. Fair enough; it’s suddenly not pleasant. India 57 for 1, with Verma on 46 and Deepti Sharma still on 1.

15.29 and the covers are off again. We await the resumption. Stadium Announcer tells us that will be at 15.40.

Kate Cross will get us going – she has balls remaining from prior to the interruption. Feel a little for all the players but the batters now have poorish light to contend with, as well as cold, wind, a newish ball and the undeniably intimidating match situation. Sharma’s answer is to drive classically out through the covers, for four. Stunning. (Re- the light, it does feel a bit like the floodlights are carrying the load here, as opposed to merely supporting the celestial bounty from the sidelines). Ecclestone, from the Pavilion. No dramas.

Verma, on 47, is potentially a single blow away from her second fifty of the match. Cross is bowling at 68mph to her partner, Deepti Sharma, who has 8. At the start of the day I noted how far behind her comrades Sharma was, during a series of shuttle runs – suggesting a relatively ordinary level of fitness. Nothing wrong with her technique, nor her application. Despite being overshadowed by the precocious Verma, she has contributed significantly, here. With that thought Verma gets through to her second half-century of the game, off only 63 balls, having scored ten fours. Outstanding stuff.

Ecclestone is unable – temporarily? – to make anything happen. I’d give Dunkley a go… but we have thin rain, sadly. Off again. 16.03. Hot brew and a scone would be nice: will be able to find the former, easily enough. Tea has been taken, we hear.

The groundsmen – and it does appear to be all men – are really wrapping the square up. The rain persists but it’s not exactly persisting it down: cue nudge/wink emoji. In fact it looks marginally better, out there, without being *encouraging*.

16.50. Time yet, for things to change but it’s looking stubbornly dank, behind the Ashley Down flats – and that’s where the weather’s coming from. It’s neither raining nor drying and I’m not sure quite where that leaves us. Light within the stadium feels viable (almost) but the backdrop is concrete-grey. Meanwhile, we eat crisps.

17-something. The Stalling (as my movie about all this, starring Reese Witherspoon and Dan Norcross will be called) goes on. It’s a tricksy, moody, unsettling little number, characterised by prickly inactivity. (Don’t panic: it’s an allegory. No rain here, for forty minutes but no signs of restorative life. Kinda makes no sense but also makes sense. Folks sit around in anoraks, looking moody. Folks eat crisps).

In the end, an End. The day is called – off. Wonder if this really happened, for real cricketing reasons… or did the umpires just want to get tanked-up before the England game?

We may never know.

Hey. What’s the forecast? Anybody?

Bristol.

Speaking as a middle-aged bloke, it’s easy to imagine a middle-aged bloke being at the centre of this. Not that I know – but it figures. So an oversight. Or an accidental something-or-other; a situation that just suddenly cropped-up. And before you know it, there’s no time to sort this thing out – to prep a new strip.

We may never know the sequence of events, or non-events, nor the trail of guilt or error. It could be that there’s a twenty-four year-old woman at the heart of this… but it’s doubtful, eh? It seems more likely – indeed it seems fairer to say – that the overwhelmingly likelihood is that this Bristolian Farce-For-Our-Ages (Still) is just another reminder that this is a sexist universe and that either some donkey didn’t get it, or there was a further, depressingly familiar outbreak of broader, cultural slackness. AKA sexism. And ultimately a Test Match pitch that somebody forgot.

Let’s be plain, then and move on. It’s a travesty and an embarrassment and a deep insult to women’s international cricket that the first Test Match in aeons will be played on a used pitch. It’s both utterly ludicrous and entirely predictable: elite women’s sport as an afterthought. Apologies have been made but another marker has been spilled: despite the tremendous increase in resource and quality, women’s cricket is still likely to be disrespected by those that are its guardians. Probably, because most of them are middle-aged blokes.

Please god let the pitch turn out to be an irrelevance to the contest. Too often dull, lifeless strips undermine the quality of the action and fuel the negativity around long-form cricket for women. How erm, unfortunate that we face this prospect, in Bristol, before we even start. In conclusion, I note to the universe that this is England’s first Test since 2019… and the first for India – a World Power in the game, right? – since November 2014.

OK. Slate. Clean. On with the cricket.

England have won the toss and will bat. It’s a sublime day. The Indian players – taking a few catches below me as I write – look resplendent in the shiniest, most Persiltastic whites you can imagine. Only the blaring music feels a tad jarring on such a wonderfully pristine day for traditional, longform cricket. Winfield-Hill will face the first ball, from Goswami, who looks substantial, as she races in, past Beaumont.

Quiet over, in which a clip to leg from Winfield-Hill goes close-ish to short square leg. Single taken. Pandey – looking sharpish and bowling generously full – follows from The Ashley Down End. No dramas.

Biggish shout in the fourth over, as Pandey beats the bat and strikes pad. First thought, high-ish. Pandey is bowling to three slips and a gully, point, mid-off, mid-on, shortish square-leg and fine leg. Winfield-Hill gets her away through extra cover. When Goswami returns and someone underneath our Media Centre distracts the batter, the bowler rather charmingly invites them to move along, with a relatively unironic “excuse me”.

Arguably the first sign of aggression comes from Beaumont, dropping confidently onto a short one from Pandey and pulling for four. Shortly afterwards I have a great view of an alleged nick from Beaumont precipitating a strong appeal from the same bowler. Live, I saw and heard nothing. At the end of the 6th, England are 12 for 0, and relatively untroubled.

The signs are that this should be a batting day… but then Goswami does draw an edge… but claims no reward. (In truth the tv in the Media Centre ain’t working, so we have no replays. Can’t be sure if the nick carried. Reading updates elsewhere, it plainly did, but Mandhana fluffed it rather badly). In other news, the recent changes to Covid regs may have substantially reduced attendance, here, but again we have a disappointingly small gathering. Given the rarity of these events and the quality of the day, it seems extraordinary, to me. Hey ho.

We have Old School Test Cricket – and what a real pleasure that is. Persistence. Relative quiet. Intrigue. Application from both sides – the long view. Beaumont and Winfield-Hill are raising that bat high but watchfully and presenting with care. The run rate is about 2.5. (Of course as I write this Vastrakar – in for Pandey – drops one short and WH dismisses it to the boundary, in front of square. She has 18 to her partner’s 13: 31 for 0 after 12).

When Goswami provides the same ammunition to Beaumont, she also guns it away, with some contempt. Is her spell feeling a tad long, now? Seventh over – so maybe. It’s Vastrakar (who had replaced Pandey) who is changed, in fact. Slow right arm, from Rana; flighty, teasing nicely. Drinks at 39 for 0.

Pandey has changed ends and is now bowling from underneath us. She looks strong but is she already running in with a little less verve? Unconfirmed.

Winfield-Hill arguably should do better than to drive two successive and invitingly short balls from Rana to extra cover: two four-balls, possibly.

In other other news, I missed the England cap presentation to Sophia Dunkley, due to a wee bit of administrative faffing pre-the media accreditation presentation to Yours Truly. But I wish to record my sense that the world just got a little better (with the first black woman garnering an England Test cap). Congratulations to her.

Possible gear-change, from England, as both batters look to capitalise on the benign conditions. As Rana completes the 18th, England reach 57 for 0, with Beaumont now 28 and WH 29 – so no extras. Vastrakar is now in again, having changed ends.

Winfield-Hill thrillingly smashes her over deep square: a ball only apparently a smidgeon short of a decent length, dispatched with real gusto. (It’s her second ‘maximum’, in fact). But from nowhere, the England opener falls to a fine diving catch from the keeper. Vastrakar had gone almost yorker length; the edge was audible and Bhatia flew to her right to gather. Quality moment and you sense it may be important in terms of bringing the visitors back into the game.

Knight, the outstanding England captain is in and Rana is challenging the inside edge, with her energetic off-spin. 70 for 1 after 22 and we have a fabulous scene and a spike in the intensity as Vastraskar re-joins. Beaumont, with that characteristic, wristy flourish, bludgeons her back straight, for four, passed Mandhana’s vain dive.

The changes keep on coming – understandably – as Goswami comes in from the Ashley Down End. Drops short and Beaumont clubs her for four through midwicket. More have joined us to sit in the sunshine; there is a light breeze but I am personally sitting close to the open door of the press box a) to get as close as possible to the line of the pitch and b) because it’s almost uncomfortably warm. That Dudley Platypus geezer (photographer) has just wandered back in, blowing hardish and commenting on the airlessness out there.

Knight appears untroubled. When Vastrakar offers just a little width, she crunches her through the covers to get off the mark with an emphatic boundary.

We approach lunch. Goswami continues. She is doing that grunting/manifestly imagining a wicket every other delivery thing – making everything, rather wonderfully, an ‘effort ball’. Do not question her heart.

Deepti Sharma will squeeze one in before the break. To say she is a spinner of the gently-paced variety is in no way to under-estimate her. Sharma is quality. Sure enough, mid-over she gets startlingly extravagant bounce and turn, beating Beaumont and the keeper. Difficult to interpret that one delivery as *a sign*, but it will encourage the Indian spinners, certainly. England are 87 for 1 after 27 at the end of an intriguing, watchable session. I am wondering what the craic is re- food and Covid and all…

Oooh.It’s there. Curry. Tidy!

Almost ready for the resumption. Great nosh, by the way – thanks to the local Hospitality Posse. Nip out, onto the balcony out front, have a look around and am struck by the fact that I could pretty much count the entire crowd. Don’t want in any any way to sponsor negativity but Jesus. These players deserve better. Onwards. Goswani. From Ashley Down.

I am a HUGE FAN of Heather Knight. Knowing her and respecting her quality and temperament, I am hopeful that she may go big, here – the unknowns around possibly significant spin/bounce/turn notwithstanding. Deepti Sharma will return promptly, from this Bristol Pavilion End, to investigate those possibilities. I watched the two of them win the WSL together, a year or two back, at Hove.

Eek, possibly, as it appears that Heather Knight, too, may be batting on an off-stump guard…

Beaumont goes through to a deserved 50 with a tickly paddle-sweep. Good applause. No sense that the pitch is a concern: certainly not to Tammy Beaumont. Blimey. Hearing on Test Match Special that Goswami has only played 11 Tests – despite having played for her country for 20 years! Crazy. Little bit of spin, for Sharma.

I like that the veteran – as plenty of the pundits are calling her – Goswani – is staying boldly full. However, if she offers width or gets it marginally wrong, there are opportunities. Knight takes one, easing her behind point for four. After 34 of the theoretical 100 overs in the day, England have passed the 100 mark, for just the one wicket down. Clearly they are ahead but the fielding side appear chirpy and present – encouragingly so.

Pandey is running in, for the 37th. Towards 70 mph. Spearing them in towards off. That sense of continued, grooved application – even though there is minimal encouragement. Batters seem set and concentrated. Sky open and blue. Rana follows and will give some air. Hiding her grip. Could be Sharma is getting more bite.

Pandey hits Beaumont with a throw. It’s more automatic-aggressive than outright nasty. The batter had come forward, dropped the ball on the pitch then retreated as the bowler picked up. No realistic chance for a run out but you could see why Pandey would send the reminder. Beaumont drives a wide one past cover to finish the over: saw no sign of verbals or smug glances. Bit more cloud, bit more breeze, I think.

Knight cuts Rana, with beautifully soft hands, through the vacant third man area. Four. She goes to 25. Beaumont is 61. The captain – in her 100th game as skipper – pushes out through extra cover for a further single and at drinks England are 125 for 1.

Resuming, Knight slashes rather, at a wideish, fullish one from Pandey. It flies over Verma at slip – unclear if she gets a hand on it. Four… but a case of the break almost bringing a wicket?

Vastrakar, from Ashley Down. Decent pace. Two yorkers – make that three. She’s trying.

One of the shots of the day as Beaumont wristily threads Rana through to the midwicket boundary. Peach. She goes to 65. Some chat on’t radio about not fulfilling the scheduled overs. Get that but surely it’s such a rare gig, this Women’s Test thing, that there is barely a precedent or guide to what’s a reasonable expectation? Similarly the suggestion that England could maybe get on with it a little more simply may be unrealistic – or bit macho, as it were? This is a Test Match. The pacing of things is different. Shedloads of time for acceleration, in this innings.

Vastraka over-pitches and Knight cashes in. Four through extra. But hold up – DRAMA. From nowhere, Beaumont flips one to short leg, off bat and pad. Rana the bowler. Excellent catch from Verma, diving in bravely. Beaumont made a very creditable 66. Sciver is in.

Sciver is a fine athlete and genuine all-rounder. Might well make a World XI. She can score quickly – not that we expect her to do that here and now.

Hey apropos bugger all: how fabulous is Alex Hartley, on BBC comms? Hilarious and delightful.

Goswami is dropping short and Sciver is punishing her. Left and right. Either side of the wicket, consecutive boundaries. England go past 150. Knight, for me one of the most consistent of world cricket, is approaching 50 and Sciver seems in already. They also appear to have received the memo about some degree of acceleration. Runs aren’t exactly flowing but bats are following through, notably. Over to Deepti Sharma to try and break up the developing flow: she comes in from the Ashley Down Road End. Tea approaches.

Poor communication should put the batters in trouble but a weakish throw means Sciver escapes. Would have been a criminal waste. Good that England are into One Day Mode, running-wise but there are limits, ladies. Tea, with the home side on 162 for 2, off 55.

Erm, 45 overs to go?!? Cannot be. Temperature has dropped. Best get a coffee.

Deepti Sharma will start us up. Touch of spin. Some immaculate defence from Sciver. Spin from both ends – it’s Rana from the Pavilion. (Has someone had a word about the over rate?) Quietish re-start.

Knight, almost inevitably, gets to 50, pushing between extra and mid-off. She has been error-free, calm, steady. Next over and she brings out the reverse-sweep, for two – playing off middle. Six-three legside field for both bowlers: both spinners are of course right arm off-spin. Sunshine in and out a little, now.

Harmanpreet Kaur is wheeling her arm over from the Pavilion End. Sciver uses the depth of the crease to cut her for four, bringing up the 200 for the home side. The batters remain patient rather than urgent… which is fine by me. These two know when and how to go after it. Weather may well be a factor later in the Test but they will be confident, now, that England can cut loose when they have built that proverbial platform. It’s likely that Knight and co are already thinking that they will look to bat just the once and hope the change in conditions (with the weather) assists them in the field. Seems reasonable; feels likely.

Sudden thought. The ball is turning just a little. I fancy Ecclestone – quite possibly the most threatening spin bowler on the planet – may have a significant role to play, over the later stages.

Kaur tempts Sciver into an on-drive, straight to mid-wicket. Sharma, moving forward, spills a relatively straightforward chance. Huge moment and – arguably – not a great look for the game. Feels like things are happening a little – or might – and that the batter’s control is less complete. In being relatively cautious – or prudent – England may now be conceding the initiative, somewhat. (Ebbs and flows? Subtle-ish changes in momentum? The very essence of Test Cricket, yes?)

Bright again as Sharma returns from the Pavilion End. Wales are just about to kick-off – yup, multi-tasking – and we have 90 mins to play here, too. (Meaning a shortfall on those overs). Knight is into her eighties, Sciver, her forties. The latter appears to miss a straight full-toss. Reviewed by the batters. Ball strikes the boot… and is hitting. Sciver gone for 42. Amy Jones, ver-ry accomplished stroke-maker, joins Knight.

So it’s 232 for 3, as Sharma comes in for the 75th over. We are either looking at a quiet hour – this will suit England – or a late come-back from the visitors. Expecting the former but wouldn’t rule out a further breakthrough as one or both of the batters is either squeezed into an error or lashes out to a poor delivery. In short, there are possibilities.

I’m wrong. Jones has played rather tamely across one that turns, gently, from Rana. England review but denied. A decent but hardly electrifying ball: Jones will be disappointed. 236 for 4: now the slowish scoring becomes an issue – or may. India are roused, England stalled. The Plan – to Go Big – is under challenge.

Sharma comes around to Knight, with the incoming debutant, Dunkley surely a wee bit nervy? Single. Lots of chat and four catchers in and around. Dunkley sees out the over.

Knight into her nineties. Dunkley gets off the mark. Then the skipper pushes hard at one from Rana and is lucky to see the edge flash through slip. An error and a concern but on the plus side she now needs only five to reach the ton.

But the skipper seems suddenly scrambled. She plays clumsily around another ver-ry slow one from Sharma and may be LBW. Umpire’s call… and she called out. Knight gone, for that 95 and England in a little bother, suddenly, at 244 for 5. May yet prove to be competitive but feels a radical under-achievement given where we were an hour ago. Elwiss joins Dunkley.

As it’s transpired, then, those voices calling for more positivity from England, once that good start had been established, may have been right. Instead they allowed India to garner some degree of control, before nabbing those wickets. As long as England kept out the visitors, then their stately progress ‘worked’. Not now.

Especially not now Deepti Sharma has brilliantly caught Elwiss, low down, at slip, off Rana! Sharp, sharp catch and sharp shift in momentum, as the sixth wicket falls. 251 on the board, 40 minutes play left. Where might we be, come 6.30? Brunt is in, Dunkley has only 3 and England are under siege.

The extraordinary truth may be that part of the issue, for England, is that Sharma has been bowling so slowly that the batters are flummoxed whilst waiting. You can hear their hearts pounding from the press box: they have the time to play about fourteen shots but then fail to time the one they need. Sharma and Rana have done well but the confusion engendered seems – as it so often does – wonderfully disproportionate. The result? Wickets falling and two short legs in for two new batters.

A welcome breakout for Dunkley when Sharma finally plops one too far, too wide. Driven for four. At 6pm 15 overs remain, for the last 30 mins. With the two spinners on, might we get ten of them? (Been a long day, so forgive the poor guesswork). Will naturally depend on boundaries scored/wickets taken and any bowling changes which may accompany the new ball. England will look to hold and India to attack: should be fascinating.

With that rampant speculation, Goswami returns, from the Bristol Pavilion End. But Brunt is nothing if not a fighter… and Dunkley can – as they say – hold a bat. Things calm a little. Sharma switches ends. The sun brightens. Brunt advances.

New ball taken. Can see it shining in Goswani’s ample palm. She fires two down leg. It’s a mixed over – that change in feel not, on this occasion, inspiring the bowler to greater focus or success. Next up Rana, with the batters looking composed, now, and determined. Great contest, to finish a particularly intriguing day. Brunt has experience and grit in spades but Dunkley is acquitting herself with quiet distinction, here. Conditions remain glorious.

Time for Pandey. Big, gathering appeal. India review but my first instinct – na. Inside edge. Proves to be. Time for one more?

Yes. Rana, with Dunkley facing. Wonder if she knows – or cares – that Gareth Bale just did a Chris Waddle? (Dreadful pen, Gareth bach). Dunkley sees it out.

England 259 for 6, at the close. Appreciative applause, and rightly so. Game better poised than it might have been if England’s early dominance had remained unchecked. Let’s doff our caps towards the Indians’ sustained efforts, which leave us ready for an exciting and possibly match-defining morning ahead.

Erm. What’s the weather doing?

‘Early Season’.

Extraordinary times. Driving through an apocalyptic hailstorm in LLandewi Velfrey en route to (you guessed it) some cricket coaching stuff in Carmarthen. Cursing the mysterious disappearance of my Cricket Wales bobble hat just when I needed it most: fellow coach Rhys wearing headgear that could only have been stolen from an un-horsed Cossack. Under 12 boys activated, entertained and warmed, over two goolie-shrinking hours.

Or over to Ynystawe, where the Girls’ Pathway coaches still haven’t thawed out from the previous four days of Siberian action. Misdirected by the reassuring local, out front of his house, wheelbarrowing purposefully but plainly confusing clubs. No dramas; soon find myself encouraging and offering throwdowns – because surely we’re all cold? – without wanting to disturb the quiet vibe. Needing now somehow to suppress my own energetic thrum but still remain temperate. And then forty overs umpiring. ‘Early Season’.

I love this early season. The madness, the toeness, the fingersness; the ecstatic, yellow, wintry lightness. Spectacular. Ridiculous. Impossible and re-connecting. Re-grooving. The Return of The Evening. The return of playing and missing and of wild but innocent leg-side wides: dozens of them. Junior flocks – like dumb, frozen seagulls, gathered in the ring. (Hey. Are their feet *actually frozen?*)

On the Bigger Stage it snowed, too. Yorkshire. Glam punching but then snuffed out, more in fact by that wintry quilt than by Big Bro’ Root. The forecast – chez Roots and countrywide – sunny but cold. Soon enough back to Sophia Gardens ‘gainst the Southern Softies from Hove… and what do we have? It’s sunny but cold. The pitch is a road and all is well. Glam 30-odd for 3. Then recover. Then as the shadows lengthen…

Defiant defeat?

Wow. Extraordinary. Incredible stadium, remarkable occasion, fraught and bristling with tension and the day/night excitement that still feels thrillingly new. Cricket of a blindingly compelling kind – certainly early-doors. Something about the change of format has made the drama necessarily keen, colorific, sharp. This is not to say of course that the future is orange but much of the tanginess here seems conducive to great sport: floodlights often being central – or at least atmospherically ‘supportive’.

England win the toss and inevitably choose to bat. Wags on twitter are soon suggesting this was in the expectation of killer spells from Jimmy and Broady come the evening. (Yes, this evening).

Only Crawley seemed to have a plan to thwart that admittedly perverse subterfuge. He batted like a god. It was the sort of performance that you suspect will ink him in the starting line-up for a decade. The strikingly tall youngster – well, 23? – struck the ball around the ground with ludicrous ease on a pitch that was soon to get far, far into the heads of his comrades. His innings may yet prove to have been a dream brought on by 4am starts and Covid Protocols and weird, distracting (and surely similarly untrue?) allegations around PPE contracts and Brexit traumas: certainly it was different level, if not unbelievable.

The quality of stroke-making was soft-pink purrfect; beyond purple. Having faced the first ball after returning from self-inflicted injury, Crawley steered the ball around, middling a series of drives and pushes. Neither Ishant nor Bumrah troubled him at all: he was effective and watchful against Patel and Ashwin, only being beaten by the rarish unplayable delivery – mainly from the left-armer – who found spite and alarming deviation in the dusty surface. Zak Crawley made 53 before being lbw to Patel. Everything about it – context, particularly – smacked of real quality.

Shortly before the Root dismissal (which preceded Crawley’s), I had texted my son to say that England may need a 200 from Crawley and ‘even on this surface, I’m not ruling it out’. Optimistic, for sure but did give the sense of something rather special happening. Elsewhere, earlier, both Sibley and Bairstow had made errors to goodish but not remarkable deliveries and then Root misjudged Ashwin. That pattern continued.

England the team, became frazzled, as a unit. True it was a challenging strip again and true the opposition are both probably a better line-up and certainly better equipped for this wicket but hey – this is Test Cricket. Everywhere you go the conditions are set up to exploit home advantage and/or visitor vulnerability. That’s Test Cricket. In this case India again bowled ver-ry skilfully on a dry pitch. And England fell into frazzlement.

Pope seemed lost amongst a surfeit of theories (or something), though this is not to single him out. England, the team could not seem to find either a ‘way of playing’ – I get that sometimes you can’t – or that precious gift of separating the moments so that each ball can be played on its merits.

From 73 for 2, with Root and Crawley beginning to emerge, England capitulated to 112 all out. Arguably nobody got out to an absolute jaffa; it was more of a series of misjudgments from guys who were either outright bewildered by the variety and intensity of the spin-bowling, or who could not break the hold the pitch itself had, as chief protagonist, over proceedings.

Let’s repeat: India are a strong side and this is their patch. So this was tough. But was it an underachievement, from England? Surely. I went from thinking that this was a 200 pitch (when Root got out) to wondering if India, had they batted first up, might have got 350. Pointless but true. And the thought that the home side may have a stronger advantage in the batting than in their bowling also landed – possibly weirdly, given the early rout.

So what could England have done? Gambled less, selection-wise? (Bairstow at 3, in Test Cricket, is a gamble, as was not opting for Woakes or Bess, to shore up the batting). In fact, there is an argument that opening with Crawley was a gamble, given his recent absence. Lots of eggs appeared to be being lobbed into the Jimmy/Broady/Archer basket. In terms of strategy and/or technically, that failure to separate events – and therefore let the onrushing collapse in – felt important. What we might call negative momentum or infectious failure set in, somewhat. Sometimes it takes bullish individuals or very clear-sighted individuals to burst through that. England found none, today.

Positivity gets so heavily conflated with dumb machismo that I rarely see it as a way forward. But if positivity meant advancing down the pitch to squish the turn and break up the bowler’s dominance then maybe. Throw in some movement deep, deep into the crease to play late and square and who knows? Maybe you find a way.

Every route has its risks and it’s up to the player to manage them with intelligence and skill. Crawley’s sublime ball-striking suggested it was not unthinkable to choose your moment to break out with confidence. England needed to find a way not just to score but to accept the challenge before them – even if that meant only defiant defeat. What happened felt disappointingly more like a kind of compliance.

Due Diligence.

A reminder: there’s an important difference between ‘being stranded/going nowhere’ and battling it out. And the latter is often a key, to Test Match cricket. Also it may be that Sibley was picked for exactly those qualities of durability and enduro-stoicism. (Lawrence wasn’t… but read on).

Also note: lodged this baby at 11.15 am, our time. But things move fast, eh?

England are getting battered, in the second Test, at Chennai. All out for less than 140. After Burns’ error – plainly Ishant set him up skillfully but for him not to see off the decent but hardly world-beating delivery that then arrowed predictably inwards, was an ordinary bit of batting – Sibley and Lawrence applied themselves with some rigour. As per what it says on their tin: “bat long”. The Burns wicket looked a combination of nerves, early-doors wooden-ness and technical issues around his extraordinary set-up and bat-swing but I’ll let better minds than mine un-pick all that and move forward.

Some commentators have said that Lawrence was stuck from the outset: I disagree. He played diligently and with care for an hour or so – as did Sibley – looking relatively untroubled. I’m not even convinced that for much of the morning period he found it difficult to score. He just felt that was secondary. Only towards the end of his occupation did it feel that the alleged imperative to tick over got to him – and he looked more susceptible to angst. The moment of his dismissal was then a classic case of bowler-induced mind-boggling, as Ashwin stepped away to up the drama for a final ball before lunch that would claim the young England man’s wicket.

Even that cruel and untimely blow does not mean Lawrence’s first innings knock was without consequence or value, despite his dismissal being for just 9 runs. Any allegation that he ‘ate up 20 balls’ before scoring is a nonsense: part of the job was manifestly to consume deliveries, ease the pain and soften the ball. Any notion that what his captain chose to do was essentially wiser or better is spurious… or at least open to intelligent debate. (Root came out sweeping – sweeping Ashwin, hard and early. Fair enough. Legitimate; bold; a gamble. It didn’t work but you can see why he thought the game demanded a response. And I get there’s an argument that Root went ‘positively’ precisely because the scoring rate was low).

There was bound to be, on this pitch, against this attack, something a sense of vigil about England’s response to the intimidating effort from Rohit Sharma, Rahane and Pant – all of whom got past fifty on the surface. Lawrence and Sibley together looked to begin that vigil, knowing they were on the back foot, with conditions and now crowd conspiring against them. Sibley appears to be born for this potentially crushing scenario: he has the physical and psychological attributes of a low-octane bear. His talent is for appearing unperturbed; munching through time and task.

You can’t help but feel that Lawrence’s job had inevitably been made harder by the third ball exit of Burns. It is likely that this pointed him towards a slightly more conservative approach, even allowing for any possible psychological conditioning around mindset, and/or the independence of all things. I thought Sibley and Lawrence did okay, in the (let’s be honest) inevitably challengingly fraught period after the departure of Burns. Sure it might have been better if they rotated the strike/scored more. Sure this meant that pressure wasn’t released. But they prepare for precisely these moments; they are experts, or developing expertise, in hardcore sport. What we saw from them at the height of this grilling was as encouraging as it was disappointing, in my view.

Foakes finished up highest scorer. After his predictable excellence behind the sticks, does this reinforce any case for selecting him regularly or permanently, in the Test side? Quite possibly. Does this means that Buttler gets dropped? Not necessarily. There are options.

The fitness of Stokes might be influential. If Stokes can play a full part in the bowling unit then things may be less complex – or controversial. He continues at five, with Pope staying in there at six and Foakes batting seven. If Moeen stays pickable (and I hope he does) then there is ample batting (and spin, for most situations, with Ali and Root) plus three specialist bowler slots. It’s not like-for-like – Buttler is arguably unique – but you are effectively just changing keepers. So minimal disruption. England get a better wicketkeeper and possibly a more durable, though less mercurial bat.

Despite Buttler’s obvious brilliance, I might ‘drop him’ into a purely white-ball role. He plays everything, short-format-wise and maybe succeeds Morgan as skipper. He wouldn’t want to drop out of Test contention and he wouldn’t. You review: you look at form, experience and suitability for particular series. Currently I’d say keep it simple, get Foakes in the team. If Pope doesn’t come through then maybe Buttler bats six.

Great teams have fantastic subs, or twelfth men or women. We are already seeing that this England Squad is exactly that, rotating to maintain balance, quality and wellbeing in the age of Shedloads of Action and (incidentally) a plague. Oh – and remember currently the fella Crawley is out: he’s looked a million dollars, on times. Something always has to give.

Here’s what we should have done…

Hmm. If I cruise through my diary for the year soon to be known as Two Thousand and *insert expletive* Twenty, what will it tell me? Given my creeping facility to fail to remember, will it direct and prompt towards some kind of legitimate reflection? Or will I need wikibloodypedia to cross-check why everything stopped at a particular date?

Tell you what. Let’s have an ungentlemanly agreement that particular dates didn’t matter: that the unkempt ‘schedule’ of events – so redolent, don’t you think, of a certain foppish barnet? – is only to be referred to where it suits our – or my – pleasure. Because blanks may be good, and factoids slippery.

JAN: Normally a quiet month, in any case. Do sometimes support the very wonderful Lady Taverners, by hosting or umpiring and chirpily chivvying along some Secondary School Girls’ Cricket Action. Great, when it happens, that lovely mixture of spookily competitive teens who ‘play’ – their word – and their more or less committed peers.

In recent years I’ve typically volunteered myself to be the Guy Who Goes Outside (On The Tennis Courts). This is madness, in January, but the gals love it and we just can’t accommodate all those who want to play inside what we call The Dome – the inflatable sports hall-thing at the local high school.

This year, my diary tells me, I had a hernia op on Jan 13th, so I missed out in any case. (The op I actually rather enjoyed – weird, I know – because it went well and – weirder still – I wanted to savour that whole drift into unconsciousness, post receiving the knockout gas. I remember trying to count into and be aware of those seconds before disappearing into slumberville. Was it going to be disorienting and bumpy, or smooth? Could I hold off the anaesthetic and dance round some faerie landscape? Would I turn out to be Ben Stokes… and is everything else a travesty?)

Turns out I remember nothing of the actual moment of disappearing. Ho-hum. Enjoyed the bantz with the staff beforehand – and grateful to them for their professionalism and good humour. Within a very few weeks they would be gearing up to grit out dark times: I was incredibly fortunate to get that operation before Normal Service was lost to all of us.

FEB: 18th and I go to The Sloop, the seaside hostelry in North Pembs that somehow ticks the strikingly efficient pub-grub tourist-eatery box and the locals’ local. Both sleepy and rammed with local sportsmen, fishermen, occasional rock/film stars, The Sloop manages to host a Welsh-speakers corner and all you buggers from Guildford.

Anyway, I was there for the AGM of the Mighty Cows – Llanrhian CC. Again felt like a privilege to be able to piggyback (via my volunteering and Proper Cricket Wales Work) the outstanding, generous work of the Cow Stalwarts. My contribution here was to try to politely bully the club into getting folks on the upcoming Foundation One Coaching courses: like most clubs in the universe, they need to train up more players or members to bring on the next generation. Think my intervention may have spurred some profitable action on this, but Covid has certainly blurred the timeline.

Diary also notes ‘Chance to Shine blog’, for 21st. Just had a look. Think this is an error… the post is about India v Aus women, opener for the T2O World Cup. Can’t trust anyone or anything, eh?

Then WOW. Tuesday 25th Feb and I’m into Lamphey Community Primary. A delightful dinky-wee school in a small village in South Pembs. The Head is a personal friend and a spectacular advocate for sport. Their hall is a tiddler but we start what proves to be a series of animated weekly sessions in there – the weather not playing ball.

I’m with Years 2/3/4. We conjure up (between us) some proper energy and enthusiasm, despite the folded dining tables and encroaching benches. No scope even for tennis ball-based games; no matter – the spongeball shuttles, swerves and shuffles are smiley enough. Am ultimately proud of the feisty level of activity we achieve: from memory only on a couple of days could we break out into the yard. Given the daft time of year and all, this was an energising start to the 2020’s school delivery.

Two days later and I’m into Caer Elen, the Welsh language primary in Haverfordwest. My children went to the school’s predecessor – Glan Cleddau – where I somehow became a Parent Governor, so I have a particular connection. I know and rate plenty of the teachers; my son grew up surfing with the secretary’s. Such is life in small communities, eh? I give it plenty and the weeks are fabulous and productive… until.

MARCH: There is now a spectre looming. The memo’s suggest I am calling schools (or still contemplating that) to try to set up sessions. 4th March I start up in Pembroke Dock Community School. I have gushed elsewhere about this establishment so will encapsulate: should get the Chance To Shine ‘School of the Year’ every year. I get three weekly visits in before the broiling beast does for us. Thurs 19th March the diary barks out CANCELLED CORONAVIRUS over the theoretical week four, at Caer Elen.

APRIL: Who knows? Should be on a charge towards All Stars, club activity with sun on our grateful backs. But nope. Extraordinary to flick through the days and weeks and see those schools, sessions, commitments that could not be fulfilled. Not even sure if I can unravel the written word: did we really lose the whole bloody lot? Cilgerran, Croesgoch, Fenton, Prendergast, Sageston – all skittled? And all the ‘Progress Sessions’ – i.e. pre-All Stars club support missions – emphatically yorked? Christonnnabike!

MAY: Diary entry feels especially poignant: ‘Under Nines Festival @ Haverfordwest’. Should’ve been a gateway for tinyish peeps; their critical first experience of matches. (In truth, although these are organised games between groups, the vibe is beautifully unthreatening. P.A.R.T.I.C.I.P.A.T.I.O.N. is absolutely key and these are generally tremendously positive, well-judged occasions. Gutting to lose them: there are none, throughout the summer).

I *should be* hosting inspiring assemblies and burning through blisteringly entertaining Road Shows: can’t. No Waldo Williams, no Narberth. I justify my (part-furloughed) existence with social media stuff and joining Whatsapp groups or Zoom calls to demystify ‘updates.’ The whole process of accurately informing our Cricket Wales Community Where We’re At begins. Half-term comes and goes – doesn’t matter.

JUNE: More voids where schools and festivals should be. There must surely be some recreational cricket(?) – acksherly I’m not sure – there’s nothing in my bible, so who can tell? No sign either of the pro’ cricket I should be planning to traduce via my blogs. Blimey. Think I even have a few days off CW media duties; this really is unheard of.

Brief re-wind because somewhere stuff is happening. March: Aus women have steamrollered India, in a bumper home win, at the T20 World Cup. I wrote about it. April: I interview Andrew Salter . May: I fall into Youtube. June: I really start to confuse the years – both in my diary and in what I may loosely refer to as Real Life. July: Shouldn’t I be planning trips? Why is there nothing? I have some recollection of fiddling around the ECB Media Accreditation page but at what point does the inevitable shrinking-down to A-list bubbles occur?

I know I have no chance of gaining access to international or indeed any other high-profile fixtures, now. I have no illusions about my relative centrality to cricket reportage. I’m a very fortunate hanger-on, tolerated by good folks at the ECB who suddenly need to reduce the media clan attending fixtures. So I’m gone, and no issues. Can’t get live access to Western Storm, either – had targeted that, a little. (Again, no issues – just very much hope to be back when things open out again).

End of AUG: HOW DID WE GET HERE?!? I follow Storm v Vipers livestream and then things funnel back to Zoom calls and more, careful de-ciphering of government/Welsh Government/Sport Wales advice on what’s do-able and how. I must also be booting down the motorway because…

SEPT: Speed Awareness Course, 14th – online. Then GOR BLIMEY: September 15th 2020… and I’M BACK IN!! Pembroke Dock Community School. The first of six, weekly visits. Now spending the whole day at schools, so as to reduce travel and therefore risks to everybody. Have a ver-ry clear memory of my first session back. It was so brilliant and crisp and rallying that I wrote about it: expect to post into Chance to Shine’s Case Studies once Pembs Sport have used it.

Life gets temporarily busy. After that full day of coaching I have a Cricket Wales Comms Zoom. 17th and I’m in Golden Grove, where the unthinkable happens – we get away with five consecutive weeks of activity outside, only dodging apocalyptic hailstorms twice, from memory. Stunningly engaging cricket-based games, both on grass(!) and the playground. Intense, given six sessions in the day, but massively gratifying. Looking back, feels like something rather profound was achieved, and defied.

I’m test-driving some learning and intuitions around offering children space to engineer their own games. This following chatter amongst Chance to Shiners and Create Development gurus. And specifically after a chinwag with another Head, who reminded me that whilst kids are being heavily stifled re physical play, (because Covid, because schools can’t condone traditional grappling) so “Guys ‘n Gals Like Me” become important as stimulators of appropriate activity, owned and developed by the children. In other words, maybe it’s become part of our job (in the Covid era) to prompt schoolchildren towards inventing or extending games themselves. I try to build my sessions towards this aspiration, by asking (them) “how do we make this work?” and “how do we make this fun?”

Sorry if that’s all a bit niche but if it’s true that children are unable or less able to physically act, or interact, there may be important repercussions, over time. And that becomes territory for teachers and maybe particularly for Sports Development Peeps like me.

Sept 27th, had hoped to be reporting live, in my own inimitable fashion, on the Rachel Heyhoe-Flint Trophy Final. Couldn’t. Blogged, watching a stream. 28th some geezer came to sweep the chimney and nearly demolished the house. (OK, exaggerate but wow, it was like a Surrealist Performance Art-fail. Dislodged the cawl, left kit by the fire and smeared the curtains with soot. Only some of this makes the diary).

OCT: After half-term am still in schools, though inevitably it’s feeling like borrowed time. I have spent £23.97 on industrial-strength sanitiser, for the kit I take in. Am sanitising between every group – spraying balls, bats, etc and squirting alcohol-gel on my hands. Feels near bomb-proof.

Remarkabkle times, though: still musing on the level of psychological impact on four-year-old Sara and Dafydd, of their teacher presenting from behind a mask, all day, every day. (Maybe none – but fascinating?) Nevertheless, the work in schools continues to be rewarding and effective in a way I’ll never be able to reflect on the Chance to Shine monitoring system, or anywhere else. I know and the teachers know the children are loving it: good enough?

NOV: Caer Elen cancel the 2nd because we’re narrowly out of a lockdown (I think). But I can return to finish my allotted six full days of delivery. Uniformly excellent: great, engaged children – years 4 and 6 – plus outstanding, informed support from staff. The availability of an immaculate and biggish sports hall unquestionably helped: we ventilated it well, sanitised religiously so sessions were busy, enjoyable, stirring, even. Thursday 19th and St Oswald’s, quite rightly, cancel. Now begins the winter.

DEC: There are more Zooms, with various colleagues. I am drafted back into the Regional Pathway, after a sabbatical couple of years but then the winter nets become a further victim. Remain philosophical about all that was inevitably lost: know that I have given a reasonable account of myself both in schools and in terms of work delivered. Can hope to fulfil my contractual obligations and personal aspiration to enthuse the universe… but a barely credible year.

Some cricket happened but I didn’t see it in the flesh. No friendly hellos with George Dobell or Dan Norcross. No Bristol, Worcester, Cardiff, or Taunton. No Edgbaston. Instead, long quiet walks. Wet beaches. A kind of philosophical re-calibration. Books and writing. Family.

The Campaign for Gentlemanly Conduct re-visited. Or something.

Blimey, did I really just write that? Am I really going back there?!? And if I do, am I not going to update that campaign title? ‘Cos half the universe won’t get that it was always a tad ironic – or at least knowing – and therefore not the weirdly Victorian-sounding hosting-place for laughably anachronistic ideals that it may seem to Younger Earthlings.

But hold up. Is there really any need to gather up the ancient arguments for something so dispiritingly passé as fairness?

Well, maybe: yes, even.

And can I actually do this without referring to either Mo Salah or England’s finest Harry Kane, having seen neither of the games, over the weekend, that so inflamed that wonder of moral and intellectual discourse, the Twittersphere?

Yes, I can. And will. Almost. (OK. I’m hardly gonna mention Salah. Too much obvious racism in the mix: maybe go there another day).

Again, sagacious readers, upon this very weekend, there were yet more penalty incidents and claim and counter-claim around ‘cheating’ and/or skilful ‘drawing’ of error and ‘foul’. Of course there were. Tribal fury was again whipped up, immediately and gun-totingly, as it seems to be in political and everyday life – worryingly.

But as my learned friend Michael Vaughan – he of the blunderbuss-tastic and mind-numbingly polarising missives – might say, “on, on!!”

Okay I’ll cough. I had neither seen Sunday’s (Kane) backing-in thing nor the Salah moment, having swerved Sky Sports for economic and family reasons. At this juncture I remain blissfully opinion-free on the Liverpool man’s re-appearance in the cross-hairs but *courtesy of Twitter* I have been reminded of some of ‘Arry’s Previous and want to address that, before I revisit the idea/ideals of the CFGC.

There is always context and here is mine. Firstly, I’ve written before, on this – you got that, right? (Go search bowlingatvincent.com for The CFGC). Secondly, yeh – on, on!!

Think Kane is a ver-ry fine all-round player but dislike his cynicism. Even buy into the idea (somewhat), that as England skipper he has certain responsibilities. He has every right as a player targeted for his threat, to look after himself, be street-wise, even. But this does not include looking for and exaggerating contact, or backing dangerously in to a defender about to legitimately jump at his back.

(Follow the link below to see highlights of the Spurs/Brighton fixture of yesterday, including the moment when Kane drew a controversial penalty by sidling in to Lallana’s airspace).

https://www.skysports.com/watch/video/sports/12121403/bale-scores-the-winner-as-spurs-beat-brighton

Of course this incident was unique in the one sense but also… just not. We know Kane does this, to a) draw free-kicks for his side; b) retaliate, possibly; c) put markers down; d) intimidate &/or hurt defenders. It’s about gaining advantage as well as getting topside of an individual opponent.

In a previous generation, Alan Shearer might have simply whacked the Number 5, elbowed him, or body-checked him late; all ways of ‘reminding’ opponents they were in a game; all now impossible, or heavily policed by the 24 cameras and indeed the general non-contact nature of Premier League football.

There are general points and specific events here, yes?

My general point includes (yet more own goal-tastically) that Kane does have responsibilities as England skipper: he is massively high profile. Broadly, he is cynical – almost classically so, in the modern way. I personally would go so far as to say he disrespects the game by repetitively seeking to draw fouls or pens, or (to use the Shankly’s phrase) “getting his retaliation in first”. Kane knows full well that his watchful and deliberate way of backing in to a centre-back might well leave the opposition player crumpled in a heap, after a fall they cannot control. He does know that, which is why it’s both dangerous and bloody nasty.

Nasty? What the F…?

Evidence from a game against Burnley is more damning than the sly shuffle into Lallana. This (below, below) has cropped up again on my Twitter feed and informs my moralistic fury more significantly than the Brighton pen – absurd though that was.

In the challenge against Burnley it’s surely undeniable that Kane is seeking to topple the player over the ‘back’ that he is making?

Either the referee or one of the assistants (or VAR!) should see that. Anybody who knows footie, I would argue, knows that. So it’s malicious – it has intent. Kane is timing his encroachment in, to make the player over-balance – at height. It’s what most of us would call a Bad Challenge. In rugby the equivalent would draw a red. Here I’d settle for a yellow against Kane, plus a referral to my (ahem) panel, who may or may not rejoice under the name under the Campaign For Gentlemanly Conduct.

I know many will see the arguments above as evidence of my delusional superannuation and distance from the game. ‘Hopeless – different generation’. Or they’ll assume I’m Arsenal. (Steady on).

I’m oldish but not that Old School, except, I confess, when it comes to sportsmanship. I don’t believe that sport is all about gallantry ffs – hah! I can hardly write the word! – but I reckon sport without some abiding sense of fairness and decency is palpably the poorer. And I don’t care where that places me.

Rules or laws are there to make games playable and to make them fair. Fairness matters – no matter how much it might make the contemporary dressing-room smirk.

The Tottingham and England captain is plainly not alone in being a serial offender against sportsmanship: the Premier League is awash with exaggeration and worse. I genuinely regret singling out Harry Kane: that was circumstance – topicality. I do however still hold with the idea that elite football needs a body to hold players (&/or other protagonists) accountable. Because otherwise the cynicism, the bad-feeling eats away.

Yonks ago I wrote about the notion that a panel, probably of former players, might be set up to look at contentious issues, in order to look at what we might call behavioural stuff, as well as the validity of decision-making. (Perhaps it might even stand aside from the rights and wrongs of pens and cards, other than to judge on qualities of intention, fairness, etc). The three or four ex-players involved might be empowered to (for example) retrospectively fine or ban players who transgress known and accepted boundaries. So Player X cannot be that cynical, that nasty, that fake, that prone to make him or herself prone.

I think this is not only do-able but important. Granted, my original idea (meant as I said as a wee provocation), that we might use a sort of conceptual extension of the old Ungentlemanly Conduct rule is an increasingly flawed notion. It sounds unhelpfully antiquated and begs an immediately negative riposte in the era of a healthily thriving WSL. But you surely get my drift?

Three panellists: maybe Shearer, Lineker, Alex Scott? Or similar. With the power to both call out and penalise cheating or more nuanced offences against sport. With a unashamedly pro-fairness agenda. Armed with a totting-up procedure, which leads to bans against repeat offenders. Keeping, or making the game as honest as possible?

So. Am I dreaming?

?

Cool Catchers… plus!

Some thoughts on coaching, from a Community Cricket Coach just returned to action.
What does it feel like, ‘going back?’
What are the real differences, in the Covid Universe?
Given that (as a ver-ry fine Headteacher just suggested to me) children “really have to find or build new Covid-aware games”, what role can we coaches play in prompting thoughtfulness and creativity, as well as those movements and skills?

Not at all saying I know the way but have a pertinent question, I reckon…

#howdowemakethiswork?