Heather Knight in action. ©ICC

Heather Knight’s unbeaten 64 and Anya Shrubsole’s 4 for 30 helped England beat Board President’s XI by two wickets in a 50-over warm-up match ahead of their series against India at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Monday (February 18).  After BP XI were bowled out for 154 in 49 overs, Knight steered the chase from No.4 to take England to the target in 37.3 overs. But that was not the story of the match.

The talking point was how BP XI’s pace bowling unit led by Komal Zanzad, the left-arm seamer from Vidarbha, made a contest out of a low scoring game.

Zanzad, who had found a place in the team on the back of her impressive performance for India Red during their winning campaign in the Challenger Trophy last month, trapped Tammy Beaumont and Sarah Taylor, England’s designated captain for this match, in front of the wicket, and bowled Natalie Sciver. Reemalaxmi Ekka, another promising young fast bowler, had Amy Jones caught behind as England stumbled to 11 for 4 in 4.5 overs.

At that point followers of women’s cricket in India were reminded of a warm-up game between Air India and England in Delhi in 1995 where Pramila Bhat had led the home side to a memorable victory. It remains the only game in recorded history of women’s cricket where a full-fleged international team has been beaten by a representative side in India.

The feat was not to be repeated as Knight and Danielle Wyatt soaked in the pressure to stitch a crucial 49-run stand for the fifth wicket to put the chase back on track. Wyatt, who hit two fours and a six in her knock of 22, fell to Tanuja Kanwer’s left-arm spin, and it triggered another collapse. Georgia Elwiss and Katherine Brunt fell in a space of six deliveries as England became 79 for 7.

Knight found an able ally in Shrubsole even as they negated an impressive Renuka Singh, the other fast bowler on show. The pair added 39 runs before Ekka dismissed Shrubsole, who made 23 off 30 balls.

With all players in the squad allowed to play, England sent Lauren Winfield, who is primarily a top-order batter, at No.10. It proved crucial in the context of the game as she put on an unbroken stand of 39 with Knight to complete the job.

Knight’s 86-ball knock consisted of nine boundaries, and Winfield’s 22-ball 23 not out was laced with three fours and a six.

Zanzad finished with impressive figures of 7-3-14-3.

Earlier in the day, Smriti Mandhana won the toss and opted to bat first in the absence of Devika Vaidya, who was scheduled to play this game but had to leave for Pune last night after her mother passed away because of a cardiac arrest. All the BP XI players wore black armband as a show of solidarity of their bereaved teammate.

Mandhana made 19 before Shrubsole had her caught by Taylor. S Meghana too fell to Shrubsole before Priya Punia and Harleen Deol added 30 runs. Deol was run out, and Elwiss had Punia caught and bowled as BP XI became 61 for 4 in 13.5 overs.

The stage was set for Veda Krishnamurthy, currently out of favour of national selectors, to reconstruct the innings, but Elwiss had her lbw for 10.

Bharati Fulmali, who hit the first six of the innings, made 23, and Minnu Mani chipped in with 28 (1 four and 1 six) before being stumped to take BP XI’s innings till the penultimate over.

Despite a spirited show by the pace bowlers, the target was too little for England.

England take on Mithali Raj-led India in the first One-Day International at the same venue on Wednesday. The three ODIs are a part of the ICC Women’s Championship. India are currently placed third with 12 points from 12 games, while England are seventh with ten points from nine games.

With India unlikely to play against Pakistan because of political reasons winning these three games is crucial if they have to avoid playing the qualifiers.

After the ODI series, the teams will travel to Guwahati for the three-match T20I series. All the six matches will be televised.

Board President’s XI: 154 in 49 overs (Harleen Deol 21, Bharati Fulmali 23, Minnu Mani 28; Anya Shrubsole 4-30) lost to England 157/8 in 37.3 overs (Heather Knight 64*, Danielle Wyatt 22, A Shurbsole 23, Lauren Winfield 23*; Komal Zanzad 3-14, Reemalaxmi Ekka 2-24, Tanuja Kanwer 2-34) by eight wickets.