The Indian Women’s cricket team will turn out to play their first Test match in seven years at Bristol on Wednesday. Sarah Waris takes a brief look at the history of women’s Tests in the country.
The women’s team from India will become the third side to play a Test match since 2014, when they take the field against England from June 16. In the last seven years, only three women’s Tests have been played in the sport — with all games featuring England and Australia. The fans, thus could not control their excitement after it was announced that the Indian side would be playing two Tests this year — against England followed by their first-ever Day-Night Test against August later in September.
Overall, the Indian Women have played 36 Test matches, winning five, losing six, and drawing 25.
A brief history of the game
The Indian team first played a Test match in 1976 under the leadership of Shanta Rangaswamy against the West Indies in Bengaluru. The series consisted of six games, with each match lasting three days. Since then, no women’s Test series has seen as many games being played on a single tour.
The Indian Women did not take time to get off the mark, with a maiden win in the format in their very first series. The skipper led the team from the front as she picked up two wickets whilst also scoring 32 runs with the bat. Fowzieh Khalil top-scored with 58 to end as the only half-centurion in the game. Her efforts helped the side take a 34-run lead, which proved to be the decider in the end.
The team played two more Test matches the following year but had to wait for seven more years to play their next game. In 1984 they played three more games, which continued till the end of 1986. By 1999, the Indian side had taken part in 26 Test matches, but they were unable to get any more wins on the board. Overall, till the start of the new century, the Indian Women’s side lost five Tests while 20 ended in a draw. The only Test win had come in their maiden series.
The 26-year streak that broke in 2002
The streak of stalemates was broken in 2002 when India finally got a win under their belt against South Africa in Paarl. Led by Anjum Chopra, the side posted 404-9 (declared) on the board, with Chopra top-scoring with a fine 80. Mithali Raj, making her debut in the match, ended with 55, while Anju Jain, Hemlata Kala, and Mamatha Maben made valuable contributions. Jhulan Goswami, who was playing her maiden Test as well, helped India bowl out the rivals for only 150. Following on, the South Africans did manage 266, which set India a target of 13 to win.
Since then, Team India have played seven more games, with three draws, one loss, and three wins. The most memorable draw undoubtedly remains the one against England, just a few months later, where a young Mithali scored a record double ton after batting for more than 10 hours. Playing at Taunton, the Indians faced a stiff total of 329 that England had piled on in the first innings. Batting at number four, Mithali held one end up as she reached her hundred in fine fashion. However, the future superstar was running out of partners before she was joined in by a determined Jhulan, who scored 62 off 196 deliveries.
Mithali’s knock of 214 was the highest score in an innings then and remains the highest score by a female Indian player to date.
Hat-trick in Taunton, Wormsley and Mysore
In the last 15 years, Team India have played four games, with three successive wins in a row. Following a memorable win at Taunton in 2006, where the Indians won by five wickets after enforcing a follow-on against England, the team have managed wins at Wormsley against England and at Mysore against South Africa — both in 2014.
While the Wormsley win was defined by excellent spells from Niranjana Nagarajan and Jhulan Goswami’s four-fors, the win against South Africa was courtesy of a stellar 192 by Thirush Kamini and a 130 by Punam Raut, which took India to a commanding position.
A five-wicket haul by part-timer Harmanpreet Kaur along with 4-54 by Rajeshwari Gayakwad dismissed South Africa for just 234 after India had piled on 400-6 in the first innings. The Indian side enforced a follow-on and eventually romped away to an easy win.
What lies ahead
The Indians will be eyeing their fourth successive Test win — a record in the format. They will be fancying their chances, considering their overall head-to-head record against England. In Test cricket, India have won two and lost just one game against England in 13 encounters. Two wins have come in England, and they are yet to lose a game in the nation.
However, with only eight Indians in the squad having played a Test match, the pressure will be on the young team, and it will be interesting to see how the senior players take on the responsibility.
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