So we have had our first glance at the Indian team in a two day warm-up game at Loughborough against an England Academy side that included five currently contracted players Katherine Brunt, Tash Farrant, Laura Marsh, Amy Jones and Danni Wyatt. The game ended in a draw after India had scored 294 all out in 106.1 overs and England had scored just 97/5 in reply in 41.4 overs, before rain curtailed play at tea on the second day. [unofficial scorecard below]
Number 7 bat Vanitha hit a very nice 94 off just 90 balls, hitting beautifully in the V with a straight bat. She looks like a good bat. Opener Mandhana also looked good scoring 59.
India had made fairly serene progress to 112/2 with Mandhana and skipper Mithali Raj at the crease. Katherine Brunt had claimed the first wicket trapping Kamini (5) lbw with a pitched-up delivery, and Laura Marsh had accounted for Jain (33) caught off the glove at slip trying to cut a ball that was too close to her. India looked to be in good shape, but Sonia Odedra picked up the key wicket of Raj, and Freya Davies removed Mandhana and Pandey with the first two balls of her first spell, to put the Indians on the back foot. But Mandhana and Kaur (31 off 133 balls) added 123 for the 6th wicket to put India back in control of the game. Both eventually went in quick succession and there followed a dull last hour to the first day as Goswami and Niranjana scored just 25 runs in 16 overs, never looking like they wanted to play any shots. They opened up the next day in more positive fashion, but Odedra returned to account for them both, with Cecily Scutt picking up the final wicket.
Danni Wyatt and Georgia Adams opened the batting for the EWA, facing the evergreen Goswami and new young talent Niranjana first up. Wyatt (1) went early edging Goswami to Kaur at third slip. She was replaced by Laura Marsh, who edged her first ball from Goswami straight to Kaur again, but she spilled the chance. In Goswami's next over the bowler suffered the same fate, this time with Adams on strike, with Kaur again the culprit in the field. Adams and Marsh decided to dig in. Marsh (3) took 26 balls to hit her first run as she attempted to replicate her Wormsley innings from last year, but when Goswami gave way to Sharma (after a seven over spell of 1/1) she attempted a pull shot, but only succeeded in top edging the ball over the keeper to Raj back-pedalling from first slip.
EWA went into lunch precariously perched on 24/2, which became 38/3 early in the afternoon session when Adams was lbw to left-arm spinner Bisht, playing for spin which did not materialise. Amy Jones (33) and Fran Wilson (30) then put together a decent partnership of 59, with Jones playing a couple of glorious straight drives, while riding her luck a little bit as aerial shots avoided the fielders. As the skies darkened over Loughborough Jones was given out lbw to Bisht, and then Wilson saw the ball trickle on from her bat to her stumps from the same bowler. It turned out to be the last action in the match, as EWA finished on 97/5.
On this form India could be a good test for England, particularly in the Test Match itself. Several of their batsmen seem to have the right mindset to bat long. Goswami still leads the seam attack well and with some gusto. A solid defensive push that hits the middle of the bat was frequently greeted with a Goswami expectant gasp and a solid stare. Bisht is a true "slow" left arm bowler and England will need to find a way to cope with her flighted deliveries, and find some way to score off them.
As for England, potential Test debutant Sonia Odedra did her cause no harm with 3/28 off 15 overs. Her nagging accuracy could prove to be effective if selected for the Test. Recovering seamer Katherine Brunt was restricted to just eight overs in the match, but seemed to be moving well. She could do with getting a few more overs under her belt before the ODIs. If anything she bowled a little too short in her two spells. Tash Farrant got through 10 overs in two five over spells without too many problems, although she seemed reluctant to throw the ball from the outfield. It will be interesting to see how big a part they both play in this summer's series.