Taha Hashim looks back on the first day of the England-India Test at Bristol and the entertaining stand that kicked it off.
There were lengthy absences that came to an end at Bristol today. England hadn’t played a Test since the 2019 Ashes, but their opponents had been far more patient – this was India’s first red-ball show in seven years. Welcome to the world of women’s Test cricket, where each contest is a reunion you’ve waited far too long for.
And it was a day worth the wait: six debutants (five for India, Sophia Dunkley for England), an excellent 95 for Heather Knight in her 100th match as England captain and an impressive afternoon comeback from India. There was, however, another storyline that went somewhat under the radar: after England won the toss and opted to bat, Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield-Hill opened the batting together for the first time in any international format since November 2017.
In case you’ve forgotten, the pair were once quite the force. Following the end of Charlotte Edwards’ international career in 2016, Beaumont and Winfield-Hill were brought together and sparkled that summer. After an ODI stand of 235 against Pakistan in June there were two T20I century stands against the same opposition in July. A year later they were building the platform for a World Cup triumph, and not long after that they put on 71 in the third innings of an Ashes Test. But that was that for the next few years: Beaumont has thrived in the white-ball game alongside Danni Wyatt and Amy Jones, while Winfield-Hill – who has endured a difficult battle with Crohn’s disease in recent years – has been consigned to life either outside of the team or away from the new ball.
But England’s decision to bring the band back together paid off. While Knight and Nat Sciver shared England’s biggest stand, it was Beaumont and Winfield-Hill who set up the innings with a partnership of 69 inside just 21 overs. Beaumont did little wrong in the morning – that high backlift floated into the ball rather sweetly – but it was Winfield-Hill who really gave the innings some oomph. To bring up England’s fifty, the 30-year-old waited on a length delivery from Shikha Pandey, rocked back and sent it over cow for six. It was the shot you practise in the mirror on a Friday night; it was the shot you don’t even come close to middling on a Saturday morning. It was the shot Winfield-Hill saved for a Test match.
Another six would follow not long after from Winfield-Hill’s bat, but the fun came to an end when a booming drive offered up an outside edge to the fast hands of Taniya Bhatia. In came Knight, the brilliant accumulator who bedded in comfortably for the long haul, while Beaumont – seven ODI tons to her name – looked set for a first in Test cricket before Shafali Verma held on brilliantly at short leg. When Knight was later joined by Sciver for a partnership of 90 off just 149 balls, there appeared the same intent that had characterised the morning escapades of Winfield and Beaumont. England, who have drawn their last two Test matches, want to live a little this time round.
“Loz [Winfield-Hill] has been in outstanding form throughout the last couple of months,” Knight said after play. “She’s looked brilliant in the nets. She’s come back from a few health issues and looks in the best place I’ve seen her for a long time. She looks in that place that she was before the 2017 World Cup where she was really nailed on in that opening position.
“We brought her back in, we saw her as the best option in red-ball cricket to go out and be successful. I thought she did well today and she’s obviously disappointed to get out, but we see her as a really good opener and a good partnership with Tammy. They have a really good relationship, get on really well and work together as a team very well.”
While a few late hiccups led to a first-day total of 269-6, there is still a pretty solid base there to work with for England. Plenty of credit can go to the resurrected opening pair.