143-5 is a good score in The Hundred – it would have been the 6th best total in last season’s comp – but Invincibles made it look easy, sailing past it with 16 balls to spare thanks to a late assault from… who else… Alice Capsey. Capsey celebrated her 18th birthday with 25 off 8 balls, at a Strike Rate of 313 – by some distance the highest 25-run-plus innings Strike Rate in the Hundred’s short history, beating Issy Wong’s 27 off 11 balls for Phoenix against Rockets in 2021.
It came after Capsey survived what appeared to be a horrible fall in the field, slipping as she tried to make a stop on the ring, turning her ankle and landing heavily on her knee. The TV slow-motion replay made it look particularly nasty, but after some treatment and a couple of magic pills she was back on her feet, and although she did leave the field briefly later in the first innings, she certainly seemed unaffected walking out to bat with the score on 104-1, with 40 required from 32 balls.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said that he’d “rather have lucky generals than good ones” but in Capsey, Oval Invincibles seem to have both. The “lucky” came first today – dropped first ball by Bess Heath at square leg, though calling it a “drop” is perhaps somewhat unfair on Heath, who did well to get her hand to it. It was soon followed by the “good” – a six driven straight down the ground was followed by four consecutive 4s off Linsey Smith to end the game.
Smith had been going well earlier, conceding just 7 runs from the last 10 balls of the powerplay, bowled consecutively across a change of ends; but she took a beating from Lauren Winfield-Hill in her third set, going for 11, and then the battering from Capsey to finish with somewhat disappointing figures in the end of 34-0 off 19.
Winfield-Hill collected the Player of the Match (or are we still calling it Match Hero?) award for her contribution of 74 off 42 balls, continuing the excellent form she has shown in domestic cricket for Diamonds this season. She’s already looking like the trade of the century, with Invincibles having picked her up for just a 3rd-tier salary, in the hopes of strengthening a batting order that had been surprisingly weak last year (notwithstanding Capsey’s break-out performances), when they definitely proved the old adage that batters win matches but bowlers win tournaments.
With Marizanne Kapp unwell, being able to bring in Suzie Bates at the top of the innings also gave a bit more balance to the Invincibles line-up. Bates added 46 off 34 balls in a first wicket partnership of 104 with Winfield-Hill, and presents Invincibles with a bit of a selection dilemma going forwards – they will clearly want to bring back Kapp asap, and van Niekerk obviously plays, so one of Bates or Shabnim Ismail is going to miss out. Ismail looked good today, delivering 8 dots from her 20 balls, but it could well be her that misses out for the sake of the balance of the team.
Another one who played a quietly significant role for Invincibles today was 17-year-old Sophia Smale, the Welsh left-arm spinner who only came into the squad as a late injury replacement for Emma Jones. There are obvious comparisons to Sophie Ecclestone, another left-arm spinner who bowls a very consistent ball; but the similarities really end there – Smale has an almost slingly action, delivering the ball wide of the crease to angle it across the batter, and she was obviously causing problems which were rewarded with the wicket of Alyssa Healy, which isn’t a bad first scalp to have in your trophy cabinet. Having come late into the team and not only superseded Danni Gregory in the line-up but also snagged a powerplay bowling spot, Smale must have seriously impressed coach Jonathan Batty, and you could see why tonight.
So Invincibles have carried on where they signed off in 2021, with a big win over fancied opposition – Superchargers were good, but just not good enough on the day to match the brilliance (and luck) of Alice Capsey at the death. It really does feel like the bigger the stage for Capsey, the bigger the performance – and the really lucky ones are all of us being here to see it.
Spot on, Syd. I thought NSC had put up a reasonable total, although despite how well Rodrigues and Wolvaardt played, there was always the sense that they just left a few runs out there and should have made 150-160. No-one bowled poorly for Oval, Smale was excellent, Villiers was unlucky and I was impressed by Eva Gray and Ryana Macdonald-Gay, who held their nerve and are just the sort of upcoming domestic medium pace bowlers that NSC could do with in their team, to bolster an attack that looks spin-heavy.
NSC’s lack of options in the bowling department was exposed a bit although Higham, Levick and Gunn did decent jobs. Although they have good spinners, NSC got lined up and taken down by determined Oval batters hungry for runs. They are in need of more economical pace options and might want to try Graham, Slater, Russell sooner rather than later. For Oval, LWH looked reinvigorated following her move down south, Bates was good as ever and Capsey rounded it off in style. DVN wasn’t even required to bat and it may take something special to best the champions based on this evidence.
This years 100 for the women is going to move up a big notch compared to last year. The”big guns” are in across all teams, and the youth is coming through too, if last nights Ovals team was the guider.
The competition will be tough, the strong and deliberate performers on the day will get the results. Each team must hit the ground running, and hitting and bowling well!
Tonight’s match will be interesting to see how they follow in Ovals footsteps.
It was good to see Lauren WH throw off the shackles of being “in England squads and not being used” syndrome. It seemed to give her freedom and it paid off handsomely.
Let’s say appetites whetted!