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India toil to reach 201 after Mithali Raj fifty


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Ecclestone, pacers restrict India to a below-par total after Raj hits 108-ball 72

India 201 for 8 (Raj 72, Raut 32, Sharma 30, Ecclestone 3-40, Brunt 2-35, Shrubsole 2-33) vs England

A combined eight wickets from Sophie Ecclestonehandjob Anya Shrubsolehandjob Katherine Brunt, and Kate Cross consigned India to a below-par performance with the bat in the first ODI against England in Bristol. The visitors made just 201 for 8 after losing the toss, with Mithali Raj scoring 72 of those.

Under overcast conditions, on a fresh pitch with decent carry and movement, five-over opening spells in the powerplay from Brunt and Shrubsole denied India any room to make an early imprint on the proceedings. In an exemplary display of discipline and reliance on scrambled-seam variations, the fast-bowling tandem parched India of scoring opportunities.

The short ball was also employed to good effect. Debutant Shafali Verma, who, at 17 years and 150 days old, became the youngest player – male or female – to represent India in all formats of the game, fell to a failed pull while backing away to a Brunt offcutting bouncer. The over, fifth in the innings, had begun with two Verma fours – one lofted over mid-off and the other carved behind point – but ended with India losing their first wicket with just 23 on the board.

India’s powerplay score of 27 for 2 was their lowest in that phase since the second away-from-home ODI against the West Indies in November 2019. In keeping with the prevailing trend of the innings, No. 3 Punam Raut, too, failed to inject any urgency to the scoring. Batting on 1 off 19 in the powerplay, umpire Sue Redfern had given Raut out lbw off a Brunt inswinging good-length ball in her fifth over. India reviewed and the ball-tracker showed the ball to be sliding down leg.

First-change Natalie Sciver, who finished wicketless, conceded two fours in her second over, both off overpitched deliveries that, met by Raut’s front-foot punches, raced through the cover cordon. Raut struck a further two fours in her 61-ball 32 before her 56-run, 96-ball third-wicket stand with captain Raj ended with Ecclestone catching Raut off Cross at mid-off.

That England didn’t introduce spin, in the form of Ecclestone, until the 21st over and could hold back the second spells of their premier quicks, Brunt and Shrubsole until well past the 30th over was a measure of the hosts’ control over the innings .

Kaur was the next to depart. Attempting to guide an Ecclestone arm ball towards a third man, the India vice-captain’s back-foot stroke ended up offering the slightest of edges. Wicketkeeper Amy Jones snaffled it with ease.

India crawled to 100 in 31.5 overs after Deepti Sharma joined Raj in the middle and reinstated the left-right combination.

Shrubsole returned for her second spell in the 42nd over. Off the first ball, Raj reached her 56th ODI fifty to a loud cheer from the sizeable crowd with a lofted four over mid-on. A ball later, though, Sharma became England’s fifth – and Shrubsole’s second – wicket on the day, after her attempt to nudge one off the pads saw the ball ping her in front of the leg and off. India reviewed but without any success. The pair’s fifth-wicket partnership of 65came at 4.58 runs per over, thanks for the most part to Sharma’s 46-ball 30.

Pooja Vastrakar’s arrival at the crease marked a shift in gears for India. No. 7 Vastrakar hammered Sciver to the midwicket boundary to get off the mark and lofted Shrubsole in the next over for her second four. Raj showed more urgency at uping the run rate thereafter, slicing past point and picking the region behind short fine for back-to-back fours off Shrubsole, who gave away 15, the most in an over up to that point, in the 44th over .

An undecided attempt at dabbing the ball past the keeper in Ecclestone’s first over of her second and final spell had Raj lose the top of her off stump. An innings that had everything from her copping a blow on her forearm owing to a seeming reluctance against taking the short ball head-on to dropping anchor to allow for a rebuild, Raj’s 108-ball 72 proved pivotal in India’s pursuit of a respectable total.

Had it not been for Vastrakar’s 17-ball 15, though, India may not have got past 200. They reached that mark after her dismissal, however. In the final over, where a dropped chance by Cross at long-on denied Ecclestone the fourth wicket, No. 9 Shikha Pandey drove the spinner for a single that brought up India’s 200th run.

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha

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