Making her Test debut and featuring within the Indian team after quite five years, Sneh Rana was wanting to structure for lost time. She bagged a four-wicket haul within the first innings before scoring a crucial, unbeaten 80 batting at No. 8 – collaborating with Shikha Pandey at No. 9 and Taniya Bhatia at 10 – to assist India to achieve a memorable draw.
It was her utility with bat and ball, despite being the second offspinner within the team, that prompted India to select her within the side before other spin options, explained Mithali Raj after the drawn one-off Test in Bristol. The Indian skipper also added that Rana’s form within the domestic circuit was one more reason for her inclusion before the likes of Poonam Yadav and Radha Yadav, who would have offered leg-spin and left-arm spin options.
“It was important for us to select spinners who’ve been doing well because we didn’t have much of a camp or tournament before this once they picked the team. Sneh was bowling well alongside Deepti [Sharma], and her bonus was she was (also) a batter. We wanted to elongate our card,” said Raj. “At one point, the (lack of) variation did play in my mind, (using) two incoming bowlers to them. But they are doing have one among the simplest left-arm spinners on their side. So clearly they’re going to be playing tons more left-arm spinners. So we thought why not feed two offspinners. Sneh possesses tons of wickets within the domestic season. So a player who has been in form for the last two years within the domestic season, having a very good season with the bat also like the ball…so why not feed her in within the first game also .”
Having been bowled out for 231 in their first innings and asked to follow on, India had slipped to 199 for 7 and leading by only 34 runs, with only Rana and therefore the other lower-order batters left. But they responded brilliantly as they not only kept the bowlers cornered but also added quick runs to require the sport far away from the hosts. From the time of Harmanpreet Kaur’s dismissal, till the players shook hands for a draw, Rana, Pandey, and Bhatia contributed 145 runs for the eighth and ninth wickets combined, while batting out 47.3 overs.
“We intended to not be very defensive, and play consistent with things,” Raj said of the team’s approach to batting when forced to follow on. “But most of them are playing white-ball cricket for quite a while. And batting may be a very instinctive thing. regardless of what proportion you tune yourself, if you’ve played tons many games with the white-ball, there’ll be times when your instincts just take over and you tend to play your shots. This is sure to happen if you play an extended format after an honest 6-7 years gap. If it is a regular feature the players adapt thereto quickly. But our basic message was to stay a positive intent and not look too defensive.”
The Indian captain heaped praise on the five-Test debutants who all essayed key roles in ensuring that England wouldn’t walk off with a win. Shafali Verma was the Player of the Match with many 96 and 63 while Deepti scored 29* and 54 alongside her three-wicket haul. Pooja Vastrakar picked up a wicket and spent a while at the crease while Rana and Bhatia combined for a match-saving 104-run stand that remained unbroken.
“Sneh is unquestionably returning after five years but that girl has had an honest few domestic seasons. I’m sure she walked in with a lot of confidence. She played very, very sensibly, alongside Taniya and Shikha Pandey. That partnership was very, very crucial for us, losing Harman and Punam Raut at that stage. That partnership that Sneh Rana built with Shikha Pandey was very, vital for us. So, I’m mighty impressed with all the debutants because right from Shafali to Deepti, Sneh, Pooja Vastrakar, and Taniya Bhatia, they’ve all done well,” said Raj, who added that the constant discussions within the team on handling different situations helped the inexperienced players devour things.
“As a team that is what we speak before the beginning of the sport or any day of the sport. We attempt to regroup and that we talk tons more about positive intent with which to face a situation. How can we [play] whether it is a collapse or if we’ve been asked to follow on? therefore the constant talk about follow-on, what’s getting to happen, and where we stand – that’s vital. So once we are together as a team the young women tend to select up from this constant chat and it helps them to organize for any situation, the way to react, the way to handle that,” she said.