Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Future bright for women's Tests as India dominate drawn game. One more day in the Test match could have seen India landing the knockout punch.
One more day in the Test match could have seen India landing the knockout punch.
The Indian camp in the dug-out were on their feet even before Shafali Verma used hers to leave the crease. They knew it was coming. They'd seen enough of the teenager to know that she doesn't back down from a challenge, especially one as open as this. After having largely operated with in-out fields for the opener till that point, Meg Lanning had decided to offer her the bait.
With one delivery to go for the tea-break, she'd brought long-on and long-off in for Sophie Molineux. Verma was also now within boundary range of getting to her half-century. Perhaps the Australian captain anticipated a declaration during the break.
Verma to her credit had played arguably her most mature Test knock yet-of the four we've seen so far. Unlike the first innings-or like she seems to do in the nets-the aggressive right-hander hadn't very matter-of-factly gone after the spinners. With the field back, she'd instead preferred to take the easily available single. She'd of course taken on the bouncer challenge from fellow teenager Stella Campbell and picked up a boundary off an overhead pull.
But to no one's real surprise, Verma casually jumped out and smacked the ball over the in-field before raising her arms in delight. And as the teams left the field, Lanning wasn't the only Australian player who seemed to be longingly looking at the Indian dug-out for some signs of a declaration. Only to see captain Mithali Raj and a couple of others still padded up and shadow-practicing their drives.
These two moments on either side of the tea-break on the final day in many ways summed up the first-ever day-night Test between the two teams. It was a contest where Australia kept throwing down the gauntlet, and India kept responding not just strongly enough to get the better of the situation. But also, to constantly be in positions from where only they could dictate the terms.
It started at the toss where Lanning put the visitors into bat on a green pitch against a five-prong pace attack. It continued through the rain-marred first half of the game, where the many breaks in play allowed Australia to always have fresh bowlers up their sleeve. And it remained the case even on the final evening when Lanning decided to declare 136 runs behind. Through it all, India kept taking them on and shifting the pressure back on the Aussies, till the very end with Lanning and the impenetrable Ellyse Perry having to see off a few tricky overs. Even the weather that thwarted their only training session under lights with the pink-ball before the game couldn't hold them down.
To the extent it almost felt unfair when the captains shook hands, that the two teams should take an equal number of points from the contest. You almost got a feeling that it was a bout, which just needed one more round in the ring for India to land a technical knockout. Or Day 5 in this case.
There was some consternation in the Indian camp on the eve of the Test. While Raj and Lanning waited to get their customary picture taken with the trophy, one of the Indian players had missed their UberEats delivery back in the hotel. It meant that the team liaison officer, who'd accompanied the captain to Metricon Stadium, had to quickly get someone to sort the situation out. It sounded like a case of room numbers being mixed up. It was also perhaps the only time the Indian team missed a trick or a treat upon arriving on the Gold Coast from Mackay. It's safe to say that by the time the two teams posed for a lovely group picture late on Sunday (October 3) night, the visitors had deservedly earned a five-star rating as a Test team.
In a four-day Test that had literally one day lost due to tropical storms, of the thunder and hail variety, India had dominated proceedings from the early going. They'd also shown up the Aussies on all fronts, with the bat and ball and even to an extent on the field. Smriti Mandhana had provided their young batters and perhaps even an Alyssa Healy and Lanning herself with a blueprint on how to build an innings in the longest format. And with the ball, Jhulan Goswami had provided a masterclass to seamers of all ages and genders on how to be relentlessly consistent in every spell. Pooja Vastrakar wasn't too far behind in that context either. India had also shown as a team, led by their captain, how you go about never giving the opposition an opening once you've established a stronghold. Not to forget, how you never forego the power of controlling the narrative of a match, once you've earned the right to do so.
The Indian women might not have played as many Tests as they should have over the last many years. But despite the growth of Australia as a force overall in women's cricket, the visitors did come into this game, more suited as a team for the format. And not just because they played their last Test only a few months ago as compared to Lanning & Co not having played in their whites since 2019.
There is some irony in the fact that the Indian team as a whole was certainly more experienced than the home team. The two debutants for India, Meghna Singha and Yastika Bhatia had between them played 13 first-class matches as compared to zero between the four who were presented the Baggy Green for Australia.
It perhaps showed even in that moment when Lanning decided to declare Australia's innings. It all happened a tad out of the blue. The Aussie captain seemed to be walking towards her dug-out as if expecting the players to walk off anyway for the dinner break. She turned around to see the time on the scoreboard read 16:32 hours, put her hands up, maybe at the moment not having realised that played had been extended by half hour since Australia were left with their last pair at the crease. And then had to frantically call Perry and Stella Campbell back just before Vastrakar had started running in. It's not easy after all to be on top of Test cricket's vagaries when you don't get to play it as oftee as you should.
There were however no doubts in either camp over probably the most significant moment of the day, when Australia went past their follow-on score. The second new ball had brought about some quick wickets for the Indians, and though Perry stood firm as always, Australia were now down to their two youngest debutants, neither with any known pedigree with the bat. There was great excitement in the Indian camp with the coaching staff all stood together, their hands clasped anxiously. Only for Brown to play the most delectable of drives to end hopes of a potentially dramatic finish.
For as encouraging as the declarations were from both teams on the final day, it was obvious that the best opportunity for a result depended on Australia being made to follow on. It also made you wonder if it always should come down to the teams to make the format exciting. If perhaps those in charge of running the sport should be the ones providing women's Tests with the best chance to be as enthralling as the other formats. For, as we've seen over the last four days, the players on both sides certainly know how to put butts on seats with their brand of cricket.
The signs are great too. On a day that finished with two legends of the game, Goswami and Perry, having a lovely chat next to the pitch followed by a high-five, we'd also seen a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old engaged in an intense face-off. The brief period of play when Campbell tried bouncing out Verma and the opener responded with equal gumption might get lost in the overall action we witnessed at the Metricon. It could however have been the most promising of signs for the future of women's Test cricket.
Maybe women's Test cricket doesn't always need to be reliant on those playing it to find the right balance between getting the job done in terms of winning series and needing to do so in an entertaining fashion. There's certainly a lot to be learnt still in getting the right mix and there were enough learnings from the four days here on the Gold Coast.
It's safe to say it was the Aussies who ended up learning a lot more from India about how to approach Test cricket. We also learnt that this Indian women's team is bloody good and only getting better. And also, that we are going to see a lot of Shafali Verma v Stella Campbell over the next decade and more, and we still won't be able to get enough of them.