Riding on half-centuries by Danielle Wyatt and Natalie Sciver-Brunt and a high quality bowling spell by Sophie Ecclestone, England women defeated India by 38 runs in the first T20 International of the three-match series at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday.

India’s new head coach Amol Muzumdar had said fielding and fitness would be his top prioritie(PTI)

Asked to bat first, England scored 197/6 – their second highest T20I total against India – despite an impressive three-wicket haul by Renuka Singh. In reply, opener Shafali Varma hit a 42-ball 52 but the hosts were never really in command and finished on 159/6.

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India were off to a promising start in the chase as Mahika Gaur leaked 12 runs in the first over before Lauren Bell was taken for eight. But England brought Sciver-Brunt into the attack and the star all-rounder cleaned up Smriti Mandhana, who attempted a hoick and was beaten all ends up.

Jemimah Rodrigues, in at No.3, fell three overs later and it seemed England would march towards a big win. But skipper Harmanpreet Kaur joined Shafali at the crease and they batted aggressively to add 41 runs off 31 balls.

India got to 82/2 at the halfway mark of their innings and were still in the game. However, England pulled things back once again as Ecclestone returned to the attack and got Harmanpreet to chop one on. The left-arm spinner, who is the top-ranked bowler in both white-ball formats but hadn’t played a competitive game since August due to a shoulder injury, also dismissed Shafali and Kanika Ahuja to finish with splendid figures of 3/15.

Shafali struck nine fours and got to her seventh T20I half-century, but there wasn’t any other noteworthy contribution in the rest of India’s batting order. Richa Ghosh mistimed a few and didn’t find the fielder before her luck ran out and she was caught at long on. Ahuja, batting for just the second time in international cricket, scored 15 off 12 balls while Pooja Vastrakar remained unbeaten on a run-a-ball 11.

For England, leg-spinner Sarah Glenn was the other standout bowler with figures of 1/25.

India handed debuts to two players – left-arm spinner Saika Ishaque and off-spinning all-rounder Shreyanka Patil. There was free entry for all but for some reason, fans were stacked in one half of the stadium with the other left empty.

The crowd that did manage to get in was given an instant thrill as Renuka struck with consecutive deliveries in the first over. The right-arm pacer was making a comeback to competitive cricket after nine months. She last featured in the Women’s Premier League where she picked just one wicket in six innings for Royal Challengers Bangalore. She sat out of the playing XI for the last two games before reportedly suffering a stress fracture which sidelined her.

On Wednesday, the 27-year-old was at her best with the new ball to dismiss Sophia Dunkley and Alice Capsey, two players who had impressed on Mumbai’s pitches during the WPL. While Dunkley played on to the stumps, Capsey was cleaned up with a peach of a delivery. Renuka got the ball to swing in and straighten after pitching to beat the bat and knock back the off-stump.

Despite having their opponents tottering at 2/2 after the first over, India couldn’t capitalise and take control of proceedings. England ran away with the contest thanks to a brilliant counterattack by two of their most experienced batters.

While Wyatt, who was playing her 150th T20I, made a 47-ball 75, Sciver-Brunt, who was the second-highest run-scorer in WPL and Player-of-the-Match in the final, went on to get a 53-ball 77. Both batters played fearlessly from the start, despite being in a tricky position, adding a 138-run stand for the third wicket.

As well as the two right-handers batted, though, India had a forgettable day in the field as the bowlers looked rusty and struggled to hit consistent lines and lengths. In terms of fielding, wicketkeeper Richa Ghosh took a stunner to get rid of Sciver-Brunt but apart from that, there were two dropped catches and countless misfields.

A day earlier, India’s new head coach Amol Muzumdar had said fielding and fitness would be his top priorities, and by the looks of it, he and fielding coach Munish Bali have their work cut out.

England got the finishing touch to their innings thanks to keeper-batter Amy Jones, who scored 23 off nine balls. Renuka was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3/27, but all the other five bowlers India used were expensive.