Gujarat-based Smriti Mandhana’s (batting) shared a 76-run opening stand with Thirush Kamini in the second innings © Getty Images

India Women openers put up a good show, putting the visitors on the driver’s seat in the fourth innings of the one-off Test at Wormsley before Kate Cross grabbed three wickets to give England Women the upper-hand. Sudatta Mukherjee looks at one of the openers, who grabbed attention of the cricket lovers.

She is just 18 years old and is playing her first Test. She has played only five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and seven Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is). She is the first female to score a double hundred in a Under-19 Women’s ODI tournament match, in which she batted with Rahul Dravid’s bat. On Friday, Smriti Mandhana scored a much-needed half-century against England Women, and brought up a 76-run partnership for the first wicket with Thirush Kamini.

Facing the likes of the formidable attack of Anya Shrubsole, Kate Cross, Jenny Gunn, Smriti was elegant, easy and aggressive in her approach. It took her 108 balls to score 51 and she smashed nine boundaries to reach the figure. The commentators at Wormsley were impressed with her performance, also given the fact that India Women are playing their first Test cricket in eight years and the pitch at the venue has supported the bowlers till Day Three.

With her elegant back-foot and front-foot drives, Smriti was the star performer from the India Women squad, when a lot was expected from her partner Thirush at the other end. Thirush is playing her first Test as well, but she has the experience of playing 27 ODIs and . She has a strike-rate of almost  hundred in T20Is.

Smriti’s style of play made the BBC commentators compare her with Kumar Sangakkara. Like Sangakkara, Smriti likes to play off the front-foot a lot and is a natural cutter and puller.

Thirush scored a hundred against  West Indies Women during ICC Women’s World Cup 2012 when Poonam Raut and she put up a partnership of 175 runs for the first wicket.  One would have expected Thirush to lead the charge. However, it was Smriti from the other end who came ahead and decided to go after the English bowlers. Before tea, a frustrated Charlotte Edwards had already used six bowlers.

Smriti anchored the innings for India Women. While everything depends upon how Mithali Raj performs on the final day, it must be noted that had it not been for a positive show from Smriti, India Women would have lost  track quite early in the fourth innings.

The Indian cricket board should take note of the way Smriti has played. Her innings has been an inspiring one for India Women, who returned to Test cricket after so many years. India Women require 62 runs to win with ideally six wickets in hand. Shubhlakshmi Sharma is probably not going to play anymore as she has dislocated her shoulder, trying to stop a boundary, which would leave India Women with five wickets.

Apart from Mithali Raj, Karuna Jain can bat. Jhulan Goswami and Nagarajan Niranjana can also come handy. However, much cannot be expected from Shikha Pandey and Ekta Bisht. The remaining batswomen should be inspired by Smriti’s knock and try to win the Test.

The final morning is likely to help the England Women bowlers. If India Women can survive the half an hour of the day, they are likely to dictate terms in the match. The wicket at Wormsley seem to have flattened out and thanks to a good opening partnership from Smriti and Thirush, India Women can go on to win the Test from here.

For the Indian cricket board and broadcasters, it is a chance for them to support and promote women’s cricket and young women cricketers like Smriti Mandhana.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)