A killer contribution from Marizanne Kapp made it South Africa’s day in the Test at Taunton, despite England ultimately bowling the visitors out having taken the brave decision to insert them after winning the toss.
Having reduced South Africa to 45-4 within the first 20 overs, with both Laura Wolvaardt and Lizelle Lee back in the pavilion, England would have been eyeing up dismissing South Africa cheaply and batting themselves by mid afternoon.
But South Africa, who haven’t played a test for almost a million years, nonetheless clearly understood that in the format they were playing they had time aplenty, as they focussed on rebuilding, and did not panic as the 10-over run-rate fell to just a single run per over in the 10 overs leading up to lunch.
This period gave Kapp time to get the measure of a pitch which clearly remained very battable through the day, and her and Luus came out after lunch looking to play positively, maintaining a run-rate of just over 3-per over for the rest of the day.
They picked their bowlers though – in particular, neutralising the threat of Ecclestone by making little effort to score off her, with a clear strategy through the team of getting a long way forward to her, getting to the pitch of the ball, and playing it with soft hands. Ecclestone went for very few runs but finished with only 1 wicket to show for her 18 overs – it was smart, Test cricket, which meant that England were the ones having to really work for their wickets.
The wickets did come, of course, giving England something to cheer about, but not before 284 runs had been scored – the majority of them by Kapp. 284 might not sound like that many, and the long, mostly-amateur history of women’s Tests is no doubt a poor guide to the professional present – but no one has ever lost a women’s Test having scored this many runs in the 1st innings.
While it was Kapp’s day, a lot of credit has to go to the other South African batters who gave her the support the needed to move past 100 and press on to 150. Sune Luus played nicely and Anneke Bosch added a useful 30; but it was Nadine de Klerk, Sinalo Jafta and Tumi Sekhukhune who were really key in just staying there, whilst Kapp scored the runs at the other end. de Klerk, Jafta and Sekhukhune collectively scored 22 runs but they stayed put for 87 balls, during which time Kapp moved from 59 to 150 and… so history suggests… put the game beyond England.
England won’t feel that way, naturally – they will reckon they can pile on the runs on an innocuous pitch tomorrow, and reseize the initiative. And you certainly wouldn’t put it past them – they have the batting to go at 4-an-over, and perhaps finish the day with a lead of 80; but they will then still need to bowl very well in the second innings to have a chance of winning the game.
Luckily from that perspective, they picked an attacking bowling unit, giving debuts to Lauren Bell and Issy Wong, both of whom picked up their maiden international wickets on the first morning. Bell in particular looked very threatening early on, getting the Dukes ball to swing wickedly with a bit of assistance from the nasty, chilly breeze that was blowing across the ground during the first session. Bell was unlucky not to pick up a wicket in that opening spell, and generally looked the more controlled of the debutantes; though typically it will be Wong that makes the show-reels with a lovely delivery to snatch the key wicket of Laura Wolvaardt, and then a nice grab at cover to get rid of Jafta.
But it was Bell that really impressed. 2,611 days ago, I saw Heather Knight hand the 14-year-old her first county cap; and I said that day that she would go on to play for England. Looking back now though, I can see that it wasn’t inevitable – it took a hell of a lot of hard work in the nets and the gym – listening to her coaches, learning and building her game. The raw pace that she had as a tearaway teenage quick, has become intelligent and controlled. An England career is a journey, and the evidence of today suggests that Bell’s will be a long one.
So the spectators got 91.4 overs, not the 100 that should have been bowled or, lets say, the 98 that should have been bowled if there was an innings break.
That fact alone is a disgrace (although I opine that its a bigger disgrace that for some bizarre reason women are expected to bowl more overs than men, or to put it the correct way around, the men are allowed to muck about and only bowl 90 overs).
Worse is the fact that the team that failed to bowl their overs quickly enough then massively benefited from their behaviour by not having to face a difficult few overs at the end of the day (or put another way the loss of a really interesting few overs for the spectators).
With women’s Test cricket is clearly under a lot of threat at the moment, having rules that allow this scenario to play out is utterly bonkers.
Perhaps next season the Premier League ought to bring in the rule that if teams have failed to score after 80 minutes the match can be ended at that point as 0-0 draw. Perhaps they should ignore injury time. Fortunately football and especially rugby ensure the spectator gets what they paid for – unlike cricket.
England bowled pretty well overall – no-one really let the side down, and the wheels never came off – and yet we’re left feeling slightly disappointed that SA were allowed to make more than 200 or certainly 250.
The highlights show featured a lot of England’s bowlers putting the ball wide outside Kapp’s off stump and getting clattered through the covers or point. Many singles were scored off her pads too, so England were guilty of not bowling straight enough at her.
Another naughty aspect of England’s performance was letting Kapp manipulate the strike and manage the tail so well. After Bosch was dismissed, the rest of the tail only scored 30 runs combined but Kapp’s brilliance ensured the score increased by over 120 from that point. England gave Kapp a loose ball to hit for 4 and then an easy single in far too many overs. The field should have come in in the latter half of the over to stop her farming the strike.
Not sure I agree about Bell being more impressive than Wong really? Whilst Cross was the best bowler, Wong produced some spectacular moments with her wicket and catch, and with her you always feel like something brilliant could happen- she has that elusive “X-factor”. Wong was certainly the more unlucky of the 2, creating more chances, having her figures dented by some poor fielding and maybe trying a bit too hard to produce wicket-taking, full deliveries at times which hurt her economy.
I felt Bell although good overall, struggled to control her prodigious in-swing at times and generally bowled a bit wide?
I would tend to agree though that the chance of an England win has maybe been lost now barring some “Baz-ball” (Lis-ball? 😉 ) antics from England tomorrow, especially with rain likely to play a role in the next 3 days. But England need to ensure they don’t let SA in with a sniff. SA only have 2 specialist bowlers, plus Kapp and bit of support from Luus and De Klerk. But if one of them produces another individual masterclass like Kapp and takes 5 or more wickets tomorrow, SA won’t need much from anyone else.