Oval Invincibles claim inaugral women’s Hundred title with emphatic win over Southern Brave

After four weeks of engaging and competitive cricket, Oval Invincibles won the women’s Hundred with the tournament’s most comprehensive blowout over the Southern Brave. The margin of victory was 48 runs with the Brave snuffed out for 73 chasing a target of 122. It could have been so much worse and yet could not have happened at a worse time.

They were three for two, 11 for five and 29 for seven at various points, the last of course the most galling with all recognised batters chewed up and spat out by an Invincibles side who only secured their place at Lord’s on Friday evening. Having finished second on the ladder, the team from south London had to get past the Birmingham Phoenix at the Oval barely 24 hours earlier before even considering making a weekend trip over the River Thames. The trip back will no doubt be slow with plenty of stopping points to savour this glory confirmed as the rains that threatened to ruin the spectacle finally gave way to glorious sunshine by 5pm. No doubt the Braves will feel like the rain was still falling on them.

Few know better than Anya Shrubsole when it comes to marquee days at Lord’s colliding with peak bowling conditions. And so when the Brave’s captain opted to bowl first with gloom above, Shrubsole was no doubt eyeing a repeat of her star turn in 2017’s World Cup success, whatever six for 26 converted to in new money.

But it would Marizanne Kapp of the Invincibles who bagged the headlines with eye-wateringly good figures of four for nine and, subsequently, the match. The South African’s first 10 balls, delivered in back-to-back sets, took out an international top three of England’s Danni Wyatt and Sophia Dunkley, then Ireland’s Gaby Lewis with just two scored between them. Even when not bowling, the ball still fell her way: a diving catch at cover point seeing off Shrubsole to make it 14 for six with 36 balls gone. Fittingly, she had the final say with a yorker that shattered Bell’s stumps, Braves hearts, and sent her teammates wild. She, however, remained zen.

As one of the game’s premier allrounders, this to her was simply another day at the office, a shift that began earlier with 26 from 14 deliveries. It was a necessary shot in the arm during the first innings to lift the runs above balls faced and set a competitive total of 121. Then again, the innings was made more or less redundant by what she achieved with the ball. She arrived at the crease with the Invincibles on 64. By the time the Braves passed that number, they were eight batters down with just nine of their 100 balls remaining.

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Over the last month, any argument the Hundred was not cricket has been countered, and unfortunately for the Braves, it seems this format also holds the truth that cricket can knock you down when you least expect it. They were the only team to win seven out of their eight games on either the women’s or men’s side of the programme. Safe passage to the final was granted by finishing top by five points.

The Braves batters will take the majority of the heat for flunking their lines on the night, but the fielding effort needs to be as big a part of the post-mortem. Fran Wilson was dropped on one (by Maia Bouchier) and 17 (by Dunkley) in her 25. New kid maverick on the block Alice Capsey should have been run out by Stafanie Taylor at point on 14 before she was eventually seen off for 18. All “if only” moments will haunt a group that had previously set the standard. The weather, though, was perhaps a mitigating factor for their with intermittent rain throughout the first innings

Among the errors were a fine 20-balls from Lauren Bell, whose flashy back of the hand slower ball to take Capsey’s leg stump was a neat accompaniment to the pace she has showcased during the tournament. Both Bell and Capsey, at 20 and 17 years of age respectively, are very much the future of English cricket and have risen to broader prominence this summer.

Yet it has been the stellar names who, ultimately, ruled the roost. Kapp’s four for nine were the tournament’s best figures, Farrant’s 18 wickets were the most in the competition and van Niekerk finished as the leading scorer with 259 runs. And with all that, Oval Incinvibles became the inaugural winners of the women’s Hundred.

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