Marizanne Kapp puts England's bowlers to the sword on entertaining day of Test cricket

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Marizanne Kapp's 150 caps entertaining day of women's Test cricket - Getty Images
Marizanne Kapp's 150 caps entertaining day of women's Test cricket - Getty Images

Sometimes you get the sport that you need. With the ICC’s chair Greg Barclay sounding the death knell for women’s Test cricket earlier this month, England and South Africa knew that they were playing for more than pride and prestige in this one-off encounter. And across an undulating first day in Taunton, they put on a show that may keep the lights on a little longer.

If any one person deserves credit for that it’s Marizanne Kapp whose 150 from 213 balls is surely a contender for the most exceptional innings ever produced by a South African. She came to the crease at 45 for four against an attack with their tails up. She last played a Test in 2014 when she made scores of 0 and 19 in an innings defeat in India. The safe money was on an early exit.

“I was very nervous coming into this game,” Kapp said. “When I first started [this innings] I was very nervous. A few days ago I thought I shouldn’t be playing Test cricket. Luckily it came off for me and my team-mates.”

She was watchful at first in a rebuilding stand of 44 with her skipper Sune Luus and then took the lead role in a counterattacking partnership of 72 with Anneke Bosch. When Bosch tamely lofted Sophie Ecclestone to point for 30 after a drinks break, the score read 161 for six. Kapp was on 59. In control, but a long way short of greatness.

Running out partners, she plundered 91 of South Africa’s subsequent 115 runs before a mistimed slog off Laura Bell and spectacular catch from Tammy Beaumont at mid-off ended her exhibition.

Kapp did not merely shepherd the tail. She dragged it to a total of 284. She swatted Ecclestone - the number one bowler in the ODI and T20I formats - with disdain. She scythed Kate Cross and Nat Sciver and she bullied the rookies Issy Wong and Laura Bell. No bowler was spared.

Context matters when discerning the good from the great and this extra element was enhanced by England’s brilliance with the new ball. With clouds overhead Heather Knight elected to have a bowl and it proved the right decision. She may be the first England Test captain without either Anya Shrubsole or Katerine Brunt since 2008 but she did have Cross, the pick of the England bowlers with a return of four for 63 from 17.4 overs. It was her unnervingly probing lines that tricked Andrie Steyn into leaving one that clattered into the stumps.

Kate Cross of England celebrates after bowling out Nonkululeko Mlaba of South Afric - GETTY IMAGES
Kate Cross of England celebrates after bowling out Nonkululeko Mlaba of South Afric - GETTY IMAGES

“It feels a bit strange going out there without Katherine and Anya is always going to feel different," Cross said. “But I'm now a senior player which I've got to accept.”

Laura Wolvaardt showed glimpses of her glittering potential with a sumptuous back-foot punch off Bell, but her exuberance proved her undoing. Wong kept it full and bowled the opener through the gate for 16.

Sciver pinged Goodall lbw for 10 and then Bell did the same to Lizelle Lee for a duck to leave the tourists in a hole. Even after Luus and Bosch contributed 27 and 30 respectively, South Africa’s innings still looked well below a competitive score.

Then Kapp unfurled all the strokes in her repertoire; pulls, cuts, guides and bunts down the ground. There was no answer. Only a stunning grab from a flying Beaumont could cut the fun short. Kapp looked sick with herself but she can go to bed tonight assured of her contribution to Test cricket. Let’s hope the suits at ICC HQ were watching.

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