Confusion and misunderstanding bring early end to drawn Bristol Test

Heather Knight of England (l) and Mithali Raj of India after the drawn Bristol Test. © Getty Images

India began the final day of the Test match on one for 83, following on, and were needed 82 runs to force England to bat again at the County Ground in Bristol. They lost Shafali Verma for 63 with the team’s score on 99 and then managed to take a small lead when another collapse ensued. From a comfortable two for 171, India were reduced to seven for 199, with a lead of a mere 34.

Sneh Rana and Shikha Pandey got together at that point and added 41 crucial runs for the eighth wicket to start the Indian fightback. Once Pandey fell for 18 off 50 balls – she got a tickle down leg side while attempting a flick – Rana was joined by Taniya Bhatia.

The two debutantes then ensured that the tourists lost no further wickets adding an unbeaten 104 for the ninth wicket – a record in Test cricket. While Rana was unbeaten on 80 and eyeing a ton on debut, Bhatia was 44 not out and looked set to go past fifty in her first appearance for India in whites.

But catching many by surprise, the teams were seen shaking hands, despite at least 12 overs left to be bowled in the game. With two players in sight of milestones in a format that isn’t played very often, it was strange that the match ended at the time. What exactly happened? Did Heather Knight offer the draw and India accepted it? Or did umpires call off play?

On Saturday (June 26), Knight and India’s Test and ODI captain Mithali Raj offered contrasting explanations.

“We wanted to continue the play,” iterated Raj. “That’s what we informed the opposite captain. They continued but then even I was on the back-foot when I saw the bails coming off. So I asked Rana what happened.”

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“She said that it was a bad light call taken by the umpire and that’s what they were told. But then I saw both the teams were congratulating each other so the umpire said that since both the teams were (shaking hands) it’s pretty much taken that the match is over.”

Chris Watts and Sue Redfern were the on-field umpires for the Test match, with Ian Gould in charge of the TV umpire duties. While bad light seemed to be a common theme in both the captains’ narrative, Knight’s version was a bit different to Raj’s.

“It became apparent to us that it was going to end in a draw so we wanted to shake hands with the Indian team but we couldn’t find Mithali,” said the England skipper.

“So eventually a message got back to us that they wanted to carry on, which was fine. Then the umpires took us for bad light and then the Indians came over and shook our hands.”

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As per law 2.8.2, “If at any time the umpires together agree that the conditions of ground, weather or light, or any other circumstances are dangerous or unreasonable, they shall immediately suspend play, or not allow play to start or to recommence.”

“The decision as to whether conditions are so bad as to warrant such action is one for the umpires alone to make, following consultation with the ICC Match Referee.”

While the umpires seemed right in their decision, what added to the intrigue was that the telecast didn’t show them making use of light-meter to take the reading.

Although England may have been relieved to have seen the end of their two and a half days on the field, India, or perhaps Rana and Bhatia may feel robbed of their possible milestones, even though the Test was headed to be a stalemate.