Manchester Originals captain Kate Cross declared the opening match of The Hundred an “amazing night for women’s cricket” after the tournament got off on a memorable note for all the right reasons at the Kia Oval.
England international Cross ended up on the losing team after a half-century by opposite number Dane van Niekerk guided Oval Invincibles to a thrilling five-wicket victory after they chased down 136 to win with two balls to spare.
Three years after the original idea for this 100-ball tournament was unveiled, it finally got under way and even though the first ball was a leg-side wide, the contest turned into a run-fest much to the delight of the 7,395 spectators in attendance.
When the England and Wales Cricket Board put out plans for this unique concept in 2018, equality was a key selling point and the decision to put a women’s match on first paid off handsomely.
“I don’t think I can come off a cricket pitch and be more pleased at a loss,” Cross admitted.
“It was the most electric atmosphere and I have never played in front of that before. An amazing night for women’s cricket and almost the perfect night apart from the result!”
When Manchester Originals posted 135 for six from their 100 balls, largely thanks to 42 from South African opener Lizelle Lee, it appeared the visitors would claim a first win of the new competition.
The odds were stacked even more against Invincibles when Cross picked up two wickets in consecutive balls, but home skipper Van Niekerk put on 73 for the fifth wicket with wife Marizanne Kapp before a thick outside edge by the former clinched victory for the Oval-based team.
It produced another thunderous reaction from a youthful crowd, who had become encapsulated by the chase in the second half of the hosts’ innings.
England bowler Cross admitted: “I said to the girls before the biggest thing was enjoy everything, enjoy the occasion and the crowd because we have made history.
“Regardless of the result, we are history-makers so to enjoy it as much as we did, I think that is why we feel like we haven’t lost the game. We were the guinea pigs and I am so glad for the tournament it comes off and we got the night we wanted.
“I felt the atmosphere even when I was in the ring, I couldn’t speak to anyone because it was so loud. I did get to go down to the boundary for a couple of balls, so that was nice, but they went over my head, so it feels like a win, I don’t feel like we lost that game of cricket, it is a strange feeling.”
Even though it was a new team, the Oval crowd immediately got behind Invincibles who made a good start when Kapp picked up the first wicket of the inaugural tournament as Emma Lamb was caught behind off the seventh legitimate ball of the match.
The Originals recovered afterwards with Lee leading the charge but it was Cross who claimed the honour of the first maximum of the competition as the visitors set 136 for victory.
At 58 for four at the halfway stage and with 78 runs required it looked unlikely, but when Kapp cleared the boundary ropes thanks to a helping hand from fellow South African Mignon du Preez, a momentum shift occurred which the fans responded to with the captain leading the team home with two balls left.
“It was electric and incredible, an experience to feel it and I think the crowd carried us at the back end,” Van Niekerk insisted after her 56 not out.
“It didn’t feel like the first game of The Hundred, it felt like something that had been there all the time. It was an incredible experience and I hope people come out for all the games and enjoy the tournament for what it is, really entertaining.”
While it is a new format and overs are no longer required, with the scoreboard different to Test, one-day and Twenty20 cricket, the end result is largely the same – the team with the most runs wins.
Ex-Surrey Stars ace Van Niekerk added: “I have played here before, but it was definitely the biggest crowd I have played in front of at the Oval and shows people are interested in the tournament.
“Like I said before in some interviews, it is still cricket, just the game is a little faster, but 100 balls is still 100 balls so hopefully everyone was entertained as much as we were.”