In a strategic move, Nat Sciver-Brunt had already circulated a memo among her teammates, outlining the approach to confronting the formidable ‘trial by spin’ awaiting England as they pursued a challenging target of 479 in the fourth innings. The track, notorious for its vicious turn since the second afternoon, presented a stern test. The early response, highlighted by Sophia Dunkley’s adept paddle sweeps, indicated a positive reception to Sciver-Brunt’s guidance.
Aligned with expectations, England succumbed to spin, losing the majority of their second innings wickets and marking their biggest defeat in the limited history of women’s Test matches. This unwanted record coincided with England’s 100th women’s Test.
However, the unexpected element for England was the exceptional performance of the red-hot Pooja Vastrakar.
The Impactful Morning Spell
Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur’s overnight declaration sacrificed her imminent maiden Test fifty, opting to capitalize on morning conditions and initial movement. Vastrakar, now in the role of the first-change bowler, wreaked havoc in just 12 balls, causing irreversible damage and setting the stage for her spin counterparts to dismantle the English lower order.
Dunkley, promoted to open, displayed confidence until a seemingly innocuous delivery from Vastrakar led to a sharp catch by Harleen Deol, ending Dunkley’s challenging tour. The following ball, a sensational delivery from Vastrakar, dismantled the stumps of Sciver-Brunt, leaving the English dugout visibly glum.
Vastrakar’s twin-wicket opening over dashed any hopes England harbored of batting resiliently for the remaining two days.
Vastrakar’s Consistent Impact
Continuing her stellar form, Vastrakar consistently hit challenging lengths and posed questions with her probing lines. Her ability to move the ball laterally proved pivotal, resulting in Heather Knight’s dismissal and England slipping to 68/4 within 14 overs. The spin attack, led by Deepti Sharma, efficiently mopped up the second half of the English lineup.
“The Indian seamers managed to get a little bit of nibble, the seam movement, this morning when you hit a good area,” acknowledged Knight after the defeat. “Pooja, in particular, was outstanding, especially the late seam movement she got off the wicket. She is really tricky when she bowls the wobble ball at a good length. Didn’t give us a lot of opportunities to score.”
Vastrakar’s Unheralded Contributions
This wasn’t the first time Vastrakar had impacted the game without garnering significant attention. In England’s first innings, her run-out of Tammy Beaumont and crucial breakthroughs had disrupted the flow of England’s response to India’s formidable total.
Harmanpreet Kaur emphasized Vastrakar’s all-round contributions and her adherence to the team plan, despite not being the preferred new-ball bowler. “Her confidence grew with every ball she sent down, and she started taking important wickets also. There’s no bigger opportunity than a Test match really to challenge yourself and grow as a player,” noted the captain.
Vastrakar’s ability to contribute across all facets of the game, despite past career-threatening injuries, underscores her value to the Indian team. Her consistent performances suggest she is crafting her destiny, likely earning her a spot in the team for the upcoming significant Test.