This game wasn’t billed as the big occasion. On Saturday they are expecting a full house at Taunton; today, we had about 1600 people in to watch the first game of the double-header. The press box was almost empty when the game started. But we were here – and it was worth it.
New Zealand have made waves against Ireland in the last few weeks, but this was different. “We’ve got to be better than we’ve been against the top teams,” Suzie Bates told me when I spoke to her at the weekend. South Africa fall into that category. In Kapp and Ismail they probably have the best pace attack in the world.
Today, New Zealand took them to pieces.
Shabnim Ismail went for 18 off her first over. Raisibe Ntozakhe’s first ball of the day was punished over midwicket for the 50th six of Sophie Devine’s career. Marizanne Kapp had been economical up top; such was Bates’ eye in by the end of the innings that even she was punished with a six in the final over.
“Bates and Devine are seeing the ball like a watermelon,” said Dane van Niekerk after the match. “The striking is unbelievable. They are smacking it so hard at the moment.”
A few years ago South Africa’s final total of 150 would have been plenty to see them over the line. Not any more. Women’s T20 is changing, and New Zealand are at the forefront of that charge.
After the game, Bates talked about a “brand” of cricket: “You can sometimes fall short and not reach it, but with the type of players that we have, you have to encourage playing like that [brand].”
Today wasn’t just about one game of cricket. The White Ferns are setting down a marker. In Bates and Devine they have the most mouthwatering opening partnership in world cricket. Amelia Kerr is fresh from hitting a double century; we didn’t even get to see her or Amy Satterthwaite bat today. One of the best T20 batsmen in the world, Rachel Priest, cannot even make it into this squad.
If T20 is a batsman’s game then it is New Zealand, surely, who must be favourites to take home that T20 trophy come November. And it was today that their campaign really started.
Today was a day of records. Suzie Bates’ first century in T20Is. Bates overtaking Charlotte Edwards record for most career runs in T20Is. And of course the record score in women’s T20Is.
We were lucky to be there to see it.