Kent vice-captain Alice Davidson-Richards made her one-day international debut as England narrowly lost the first of a three-match series in searing conditions in Nagpur.
The Tunbridge Wells all-rounder made her 50-over bow as temperatures passed 40 degrees Celsius in a topsy-turvy contest after England batted first in a repeat of the 2017 World Cup final at Lord’s.
Well set at 166/3 chasing 208 to win, the hosts were derailed by some fine bowling in a run-chase that was similar to the last time these sides met at the Home of Cricket.
That left them perilously poised at 190/9 needing a further 18 runs for victory but the last-wicket pair of Ekta Bisht and Poonam Yadav saw them to a dramatic victory on a slow pitch.
India’s innings was built around a brilliant 86 from Smriti Mandhana, while England had Fran Wilson and Dani Hazel to thank for their 207 – a competitive effort given they had earlier slipped to 102/5.
At five wickets down England were looking down the barrel, and it was a feather in the cap of Wilson and Hazell that they surpassed 200.
The collapse came after they got the ideal start. Anya Shrubsole was captaining England for the first time in an international, in what was also her 50th appearance, and after the winning the toss Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt put on 71 in some style.
It gave little indication of the troubles that would follow, with both looking comfortable and scoring with ease.
Wyatt was the first to go and it was a pre-cursor for many of England’s battles with the bat – beaten by a lack of pace she top-edged the loopy Poonam Yadav to cover.
Amy Jones came in at No.3 but she was back in the hutch soon after, caught-and-bowled by Yadav to give her a double-wicket maiden.
Beaumont, who was good value for her 37, went the same way as Jones and when Sciver and Elwiss followed in the next five overs England had lost five wickets for just 31 runs.
The hard work and skill of Fran Wilson and Dani Hazell – and the sheer bloody-mindedness of Davidson-Richards (9 off 32 balls on debut) – gave England something to bowl at.
They knew they’d have to be on it with the ball and Hazell continued to do more than her fair share, taking the early wickets of Devika Vaidya and Mithali Raj, the latter for a duck on the day that she overtook former Kent and England captain Charlotte Edwards as the leading appearance-maker in women’s ODIs.
Hazell finished with the very tidy figures of 10-1-34-2 but for a long time no other bowler was quite able to exert the same amount of pressure as her.
At that point India seemed certain to cruise home but a combination of Georgia Elwiss and Sophie Ecclestone brought England back into the game and seemingly to the brink of victory.
It wasn’t to be on this occasion as India took the spoils in a thrilling match. England will have mixed feelings after a topsy-turvy game. They know they can play better but they’ll also take some heart from coming close despite under-performing.
Either way, there’s plenty for Robinson and his team to ponder ahead of Monday’s second ODI at the same venue.