Ind vs Aus Test: Pooja Vastrakar headlines India's day

Pooja Vastrakar picked up career-best figures of 4 for 53 with her incisive spell

Mrinalini Majumdar
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Pooja Vastrakar

Pooja Vastrakar (R) celebrates a wicket © Getty

Pooja Vastrakar, Sneh Rana and the openers headlined what was a fruitful day for India in the one-off Women’s Test against Australia at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday (December 21). They bowled out the visitors for 219 before reducing the deficit to 121 runs thanks to some enterprising batting from the openers Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma.

It was a thrilling day one for Harmanpreet Kaur and Co. with the bowlers making sure that on their first Test in India in 40 years, Australia didn’t run away with the game. When it was their turn to bat, they were more disciplined than their opponents despite getting a whirlwind start.

The day began with Australia winning the coin toss and choosing to bat first with the expectation of a big total in the first innings - captain Alyssa Healy talked about wanting to bat only once and score big. But India had other plans.

The morning started on a bright note for the hosts when Phoebe Litchfield was dismissed for a diamond duck in the first over after a mix-up with fellow opener Beth Mooney. Given the opportunity to share the new ball, Vastrakar took it gleefully and accounted for the big wicket of Ellyse Perry as she shattered the allrounder’s stumps in the second ball she faced.

From 7 for 2 in the second over, Tahlia McGrath counter-attacked even as an uncharacteristic Mooney played and missed a lot of deliveries at the other end. The duo added 80 runs for the third wicket despite some incisive bowling from Vastrakar and Rana.

McGrath, in particular, was harsh on the pace bowlers Renuka Singh Thakur and Vastrakar. The Aussie vice-captain went on to score a fifty from just 52 balls.

However, Rana did not let the partnership proceed further. Having bowled a tight spell until then, the off spinner was rewarded with the wicket of McGrath. India continued to keep Australia under pressure and Vastrakar came back to get Mooney in the last ball before lunch with a short-pitched delivery from round the wicket.

Annabel Sutherland tried to give Healy company with a 40-run partnership before the Australian skipper went for an ill-advised sweep against Deepti Sharma and was bowled.

With Vastrakar accounting for two more wickets - she trapped Sutherland in front of the wickets before getting Ashleigh Gardner to nick one behind the stumps to Yastika Bhatia. At tea, Australia were 180 for 8 with Rana picking up her second wicket in the form of Alana King.

At the start of the final session, Kim Garth showed some resistance in the company of Jess Jonassen and Lauren Cheatle to take Australia to 219 before Rana ended the innings with the wicket of debutant Cheatle.

For India, Vastrakar picked up four wickets for 53 runs and Rana accounted for three of the Australian batters.

When it was India’s turn to bat, Australia pacers weren’t as disciplined as the India bowlers and they paid the price for it. Mandhana took some liking to Garth as the swing bowler erred on line and hit her for four boundaries in the first two overs. Shafali didn’t stay far behind and took on the bowlers as well India racked up fifty runs inside eight overs.

Perry, Australia’s most experienced bowler, didn’t receive a warm welcome to the crease as well and Mandhana smashed her two fours - including a stylish pull - in her opening over.

Healy, playing in her first Test match as full-time skipper, took her time to introduce her spinners and Gardner managed to keep the Indian batters quiet with three consecutive maidens. But it was the introduction of Jonassen that gave Australia the breakthrough. The left-arm spinner trapped Shafali in front of the wicket to end the 90-run stand.

With only ten odd minutes left in the game, India sent in their night watcher Rana and she played out the remaining overs in the company of Mandhana, who remained unbeaten on 43 off 49 balls.

Brief Scores - Day 1: Australia 1st innings 219 for 10 in 77.4 overs (Tahlia McGrath 50, Beth Mooney 40; Pooja Vastrakar 4/53, Sneh Rana 3/56) India 1st innings 98 for 1 in 19 overs (Smriti Mandhana 43*, Shafali Verma 40) India trail by 98 runs