ALEX HARTLEY: It’s a tantalising test but I fancy England to pip India

Alex Hartley, England’s World Cup-winning spinner in 2017, pens her Sportsmail column

ALEX HARTLEY: It’s a tantalising test but I fancy England to pip India… even though they have had little practice in what is a very different format

  • England’s women take on India at Bristol in a one-off Test on Wednesday 
  • Everyone wants to play Test cricket and that’s as true in the women’s game 
  • It really is important for England to play more Test cricket and this will help 
  • It will be a huge mental challenge for both teams but England should prevail 

England’s women take on India at Bristol in a one-off Test on Wednesday at the start of a vital all-format series.

Here Alex Hartley, England’s World Cup-winning spinner in 2017, looks ahead to the challenge in the first of her Sportsmail columns.

Alex Hartley, England’s World Cup-winning spinner in 2017, pens her Sportsmail column

Test matches are like gold dust in women’s cricket. They don’t often come around and when they do, the girls get very excited. 

Certainly, I can’t wait to watch England play India.

Everyone wants to play Test cricket and that’s as true in the women’s game as it is for the men. It is the pinnacle for us too. 

And it’s great for our game that there are more women’s Tests coming up, starting at Bristol on Wednesday and culminating with the Ashes.

It really is important for England to play more Test cricket and this match is the start of another multi-format series like we have seen in women’s cricket against Australia. It’s a system that works and one I would like to see introduced in our regional cricket, too.

England’s best players in white-ball cricket will still be at the forefront of the Test team. Captain Heather Knight is a brilliant role model and is so good at the red-ball game.

Nat Sciver, the new vice-captain, will very much be at the centre of all England do and Sophie Ecclestone was the best T20 spinner in the world by the age of 21. I’ve no doubt she will be just as much of a force bowling more overs in Test cricket.

And Katherine Brunt, approaching her 36th birthday, remains the leader of the England attack in all formats. There are echoes of Jimmy Anderson here because Katherine is genuinely getting better with age, like a fine wine. 

Despite approaching 36 Katherine Brunt is still the leader of the England attack in all formats

Despite approaching 36 Katherine Brunt is still the leader of the England attack in all formats

Even though she is not as quick as she once was, she has learnt different skills, like slower balls and back of the hand deliveries. The older she’s got, the more adaptable she’s become.

One new name in the extended squad is fast bowler Em Arlott who we are all starting to hear a lot about. She bowled a four-wicket maiden for Central Sparks in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy last week and that could well have sealed her selection. 

She’s an exciting prospect and will have looked up to Brunt as she was coming through the ranks. Now she’s in the same England squad as her and that’s brilliant.

Test cricket for women remains very much a case of learning on the job. We just don’t play much red-ball cricket so it’s all about staying in battles for longer and getting in the habit of repeating our skills. 

For instance, when India’s Jhulan Goswami is running in and bowling repeatedly on a length, will Knight have the discipline to keep leaving the ball and to keep waiting for the bad one?

It will be a huge mental challenge for both teams.

England are in great shape going into this big game but it is unfortunate that their three-day red-ball warm-up game was washed out because they have had no real practice in what is a very different format.

In Mithali Raj, India have an extremely experienced player and they will be looking to her to provide the example

In Mithali Raj, India have an extremely experienced player and they will be looking to her to provide the example

The unknown is what sort of opposition India will provide because they have not played a Test since 2014 and could potentially have as many as 10 debutants at Bristol.

They are a brilliant white-ball side, one of the best in the world. Their challenge now is transferring those skills to the red-ball game. White-ball cricket, of course, is aggressive, fast-paced and fiery and those are the sort of cricketers India have. It will be fascinating to see how they adapt that game now.

In Mithali Raj, India have an extremely experienced player and they will be looking to her to provide the example. She will be a key figure at Bristol but England will start as favourites to take the four points for a win into the white-ball games.

LIVE on Sky Sports Main Event, Wednesday 10.30am; 11am start 

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