Anya Shrubsole knows all about batting collapses at Lord’s. Back in 2017 she was on the right end of one against India, with a spell of bowling which won England a World Cup. On Saturday, in the inaugural final of the Women’s Hundred, she felt the rough end of the deal, forced to look on as her side Southern Brave collapsed to 73 all out – Oval Invincibles storming to victory by a mammoth 48 runs.
It was the South African seamer Marizanne Kapp, who finished with astonishing figures of four wickets for nine runs from 18 balls, who ripped the heart out of the Brave’s chase before it even got going. After her opening set – an unplayable 10 balls of outswing bowling – Brave were already two for three, with Danni Wyatt, Sophia Dunkley and Gaby Lewis all back in the pavilion.
Brave had reached the final automatically after finishing top in the group stages and were pre-match favourites, having built their success in the tournament on a hefty, confident batting lineup. It failed to fire at just the wrong time – four of their top six falling for ducks. From 11 for five after 30 balls, there really was no way back.
Earlier, Kapp – who missed five matches of the group stages with an injury but crucially fought her way back to fitness before Friday’s eliminator victory against Birmingham Phoenix – had also helped ensure that Invincibles’ innings ended with a bang, striking 26 from 14 balls in an all-round performance that won her the player of the final award and delighted her captain (and wife), Dane van Niekerk.
“Kapp is a big-match player,” Van Niekerk said. “I told her last night that she always steps up on the big stage. She’s really tired but she pushed through and I’m really proud of her.”
For a competition that has built its reputation on ripping up cricket’s established gender order, staging the final at Lord’s felt fitting. Unbelievably – or perhaps more accurately if you know anything about the history of cricket, believably – this was the first time in the 200 years of the ground’s existence that a domestic women’s final has been played there. The 17,116 spectators milling through the gates were history-makers, although they were largely unconcerned about that fact. They just wanted to watch some cracking cricket.
Oval Invincibles’ Marizanne Kapp celebrates after taking the wicket of Southern Brave’s Gaby Lewis. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images/Reuters
And cracking cricket they got … for the first 100 balls at least. A theme of this tournament has been the top-notch performances of England’s brightest young female cricketers, exposed to the public eye for the first time. At Lord’s we were treated to the sight of the best young batter in England – the 17-year-old Alice Capsey – facing up to the best young bowler – the 20-year-old Lauren Bell. Capsey (18 from 12 balls) drove her sumptuously down the ground for four but Bell (two for 24) had the last laugh, taking out Capsey’s stumps with a back-of-the-hand slower ball.
That encounter came after Bell had opened her account with a maiden set of five, as Invincibles continued their tournament trend of a slow powerplay: just 21 runs scored off the first 25 balls. A 56-run partnership between Van Niekerk (26 from 29) and Fran Wilson (25 off 29) shored things up, as the pair made the Brave pay for some errors in the field – notably a stinker of a drop from Sophia Dunkley at deep square leg, giving Wilson a life on 17. Even so a total of 121 for six seemed under-par at the halfway stage. That feels a long time ago now.
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In truth, this was a disappointing end to a tournament that has proved revolutionary for the women’s game. But perhaps that helps underscore the key fact that it is not a one-off final on a Saturday at Lord’s in August which will determine the future of women’s cricket – but rather what comes next.