England v India Test - Women's
Shafali shines again in India fightback
India's collapse saw England enforce the follow-on but Shafali Verma again the key for India as they battle to push Test to final day
19 June 2021, 07:44 AM AEST
India's Shafali Verma has again showcased why she will be a dangerous opponent for Australia next summer, with the teenager striking her second fifty of the Test against England as they fought back in the one-off Test in Bristol.
After England enforced the follow-on during Friday's third day of action, India finished the day on 1-83 with Shafali still looking comfortable despite the wind, rain and overcast conditions all helping the bowlers.
The teenager struck the ball beautifully during her unbeaten 55, which included 11 fours from 68 balls.
When she brought up her fifty off 63 balls, she became the youngest woman from any country ever to score twin fifties on Test debut, following her dazzling 96 in the first innings.
Shafali is already well known to the Australians in the T20 format, having demonstrated her prowess with a blistering 28-ball 49 in match in February 2020 as a 16-year-old, and she was part of the side that was beaten in the T20 World Cup final at the MCG.
Across men's and women's Tests, only Sachin Tendulkar (17 years, 107 days) was younger than Shafali, who is 17 years, 139 days old in achieving the milestone.
Despite her heroics, India were still in trouble, trailing England by 82 runs after they'd been earlier bowled out for 231.
But the same inclement weather that washed out the entire first day of the men's World Test Championship final in Southampton saw no play possible after the tea break at Bristol.
Sophie Ecclestone claimed the first three wickets to fall for England on Friday morning as India, who had been 167 without loss at one stage on day two, were dismissed before lunch at the County Ground.
The first two were both lbw, including a player review, as India slumped to 7-187 without having added to their overnight total.
Heather Knight had taken 2-1 from six overs the night before, but it was Ecclestone, the world's No.1 T20 spinner who did the damage inside the opening 40 minutes to send back Harmanpreet Kaur, Taniya Bhatia and Sneh Rana and finish with 4-88.
"It's always interesting when me and Shafali match up in whatever format of the game it is," Ecclestone said after play.
"When it comes to T20 I think she's really highly rated so it's really interesting to bowl at her.
"You just never know what's going to happen with her, you never know if you're going to get whacked over the top or she's going to miss one so it's really interesting to bowl to her and it's quite a good competition for me.
"I think just bowl my best ball and vary my pace so when I come into a Test match it's like trying to bowl my best ball for longer but when Shafali's batting I think it's try and use my arm ball a few times and vary my pace, so just change it up a little bit," Ecclestone added of her approach and mindset.
"When Shafali's batting I always want to win the battle, definitely I don't want her getting one up on me.
"I always look forward to the competition of playing against her so yeah, I'm always trying to get her out first before she hits me for any sixes."
India opener Smriti Mandhana was dismissed for just eight with the last ball before lunch after he first-innings 78, and said shot selection had proved a crucial issues for the Indians.
"Nothing to take away from them, they bowled well, but the balls weren't that great to get out, so I think we kind of threw our wickets (away) – all of us.
"That's the only discussion (for the team). We need to play to our strengths, not think about the occasion.
"That will really help to perform better and just trying to get used to the conditions. The first innings is done. The second innings – we have a big day tomorrow."
England also struck immediately with the new ball, Katherine Brunt claiming the wicket of Pooja Vastrakar for 12 with a superb delivery that just clipped the bails.
Anya Shrubsole then took the final wicket of the innings, bowling Jhulan Goswami, before Knight enforced the follow on with India 165 runs behind.
Shafali again looked to dominate at the start of the second innings and stroked the experienced Brunt and Shrubsole around the ground to reach 20 before lunch.