India closed to within 62 runs of victory over England with six wickets remaining on a compelling third day in the Kia Women’s Test at Wormsley.
Opening pair Thirush Kamini and Smriti Mandhana provided a solid start to the run chase, with a succession of boundaries steering their side to 76, before Lancashire seamer Kate Cross struck twice in four overs to leave India 82 for two.
Heather Knight picked up her first Test wicket as the tourists slipped to 112 for three when Jenny Gunn pouched a sharp low catch at first slip to dismiss Poonam Raut.
Cross claimed her third as Harmanpreet Kaur collected a pair after being caught at the wicket, leaving India’s captain Mithali Raj with the responsibility of guiding her team towards the victory target go 181 on the final morning.
Cross, conceded India are slight favourites to win, a finely poised contest.
“The pitch is a bit flatter and lower and we need to bowl gun-barrel straight because any action is likely to take place in the first session” she said.
“Their captain Mithali Raj is the key wicket and if we can get her early it will be massive for us. She’s game-changer and we’re pleased at the way she retreated in to her shell because we know what a dangerous shot-maker she is.
“It’s going to be an exciting final day."
Gunn laid the foundations for England’s competitive total, posting her maiden Test fifty to finish 62 not out. Her innings was a model of application and may yet prove decisive in the final outcome.
The 28-year-old gave one sharp chance on 56 when she was dropped off Jhulan Goswami at the wicket but, after a painstakingly slow start when she was two overnight from forty two balls, she positively raced to her half-century off 150 balls.
A seventh-wicket partnership with Sarah Taylor steered England from a parlous 84 for six to 123 when Taylor, who had reigned in her flamboyant stroke play, was undone by as beauty from Shubhlakshmi Sharma which cut back to remove her leg-stump.
But there was agony to follow for Sharma, who is unlikely to bat unless absolutely necessary after dislocating her shoulder attempting to cut off a ball on the boundary.
Sensing the need to push on, Gunn unleashed a series of attacking strokes sharing in a crucial 58-run eighth-wicket stand with Anya Shrubsole. Once Shrubsole departed leg before to Goswami first ball after lunch, Gunn brought up her landmark before running out of partners.
The lbw decision against Shrubsole, the eighteenth of the match, set a new world record in women’s Tests.