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A magnificent 150 from Marizanne Kapp – the highest score by a South African woman in Tests – helped her side to 284 all out at stumps on the first day at Taunton, putting a dent in England’s hopes of a dream start to their new-look era.
The hosts had reduced South Africa to 45 for four, with the debutantes Issy Wong and Lauren Bell claiming maiden scalps after Heather Knight made the bold decision to bowl first. Kapp, though, was happy to spoil the party, creaming boundaries through the covers and punishing anything overpitched. She shared partnerships of 72 with Anneke Bosch and 41 with Nadine de Klerk, before bringing up a 151-ball hundred during the evening session – the fastest recorded against England in women’s Tests.
“To come out and score that 150 is pretty special for me,” Kapp said. “It’s a massive highlight in my career.” Kate Cross (four for 63), who wrapped up the South African innings just after 6pm, said that she was “pleased overall” with the day, but there is no doubt that Kapp’s innings was a thorn in England’s side.
Astonishingly this was Kapp’s (and South Africa’s) first Test since November 2014; on the last occasion, she made scores of nought and 19, while in last week’s three-day warm-up she hit nought and 34.
It took a breathtaking flying catch from Tammy Beaumont at mid-off, handing Bell her second wicket of the day, to end the mammoth effort. “When I first started I was very nervous – my first Test match was an absolute nightmare,” Kapp said.
“I’ve been working really hard on my white-ball game and when I played the warm-up game a few days ago I was like: ‘I shouldn’t be playing Test matches!’ If you just take it ball by ball and forget about the colour of the ball that’s coming towards you, it really helps a lot. I didn’t change anything [technically], I just played the way I play my game.”
The day began with a lengthy cap presentation, as four England players were handed honours – the seamers Bell, Wong and Alice Davidson-Richards, and the batter Emma Lamb. Not since 2001 have England named as many debutantes in a Test. Add in nine South African debutantes and a brand new type of ball – the red Dukes is being used for the first time in a women’s Test – and it was into the unknown for both teams.
England claimed first blood: Cross, promoted to opening bowler, struck in her third over, after Andrie Steyn shouldered arms to a ball that moved in to brush her off stump. Nat Sciver also used the unpredictability of the Dukes to her advantage, trapping Lara Goodall plumb in front.
For England the moments of the morning to savour were the maiden international wickets of the 21-year-old Bell, whose trademark inswinger trapped Lizelle Lee for a duck; and the 20-year-old Wong, who rattled the stumps of the dangerous Laura Wolvaardt with another ball which ducked back into the batter.
The hosts continued to display moments of brilliance throughout the day: the South Africa captain, Suné Luus, fell victim to a superb low catch from Sciver in the slips immediately after lunch, while Wong snatched one out of the air at cover to see off Sinalo Jafta. Yet by the time Davidson-Richards got in on the act with her own maiden scalp, just after tea – De Klerk caught behind slashing at a wide one – Kapp had taken advantage of the older ball and a quickening outfield to drag her side back into the match. Remarkably, given the mismatch in recent Test experience between the two sides, this was very much South Africa’s day.