An unbeaten half-century from skipper Mithali Raj steered India to victory over England by six wickets in the one-off Kia Women’s Test at Wormsley.
Raj’s fourth Test fifty proved decisive although it was partner Shikha Pandey who hit the winning runs with a drive through extra-cover an hour and 50 minutes into the final day.
Resuming on 119 for four and requiring a further 62 to win, Raj and her overnight partner Pandey began watchfully.
A much-needed breakthrough for England nearly came after eight overs when Anya Shrubsole found the edge of Raj’s bat with a ball that moved away off the seam only for it to fly through the gloves of Sarah Taylor, who was standing up to the wicket.
On a pitch that had become easier for batting and with favourable overhead conditions, England’s quartet of seam bowlers found it hard going with very little movement either through the air or off the seam.
Pandey brought up India’s 150 in the 80th over with a drive through the covers off Jenny Gunn as runs started to come at a quicker rate than they had all match - the first hour yielding 32.
Kate Cross and Shrubsole were given the second new ball with 31 still required and they started well with two consecutive maidens. From there, though, Raj and Pandey were able to rotate the strike and move the score on steadily.
A last roll of the dice saw Gunn - who went on to receive the player of the match award following her impressive efforts with bat and ball - return from the Deer Park End but England captain Charlotte Edwards dropped a regulation chance at mid-off when Raj, then on 40, mishit a drive straight to her.
The fifty partnership between Raj and Pandey arrived with a gentle push into the off-side by Raj, leaving just another 15 required for victory. The runs came quickly, assisted by a wide, a mis-field which turned a single into three and some helpful wide balls outside off stump.
Edwards said: “There was a huge amount of belief in the team coming here this morning because of our previous experience of Test cricket but it just wasn’t to be. Great credit must be given to India and Mithali for sticking to their task and seeing it through.”
Winning captain Raj, whose side were playing their first Test in eight years, added: “I am very happy that I have got to play another Test and I am especially happy for the young girls in the side. Test matches feel very different and this victory feels very special.”