Review | South Africa defied England in a one-off Test stalemate
Written By: Ritwika Dhar
Picture Courtesy: Google Images
Young pacers from both teams seized their opportunities
Both England and South Africa fielded their brand-new pace attacks in the absence of Shrubsole, Brunt, Ismail, and Khaka. Issy Wong, Lauren Bell, Alice Davidson-Richards, and Emma Lamb made their debuts for England. Experienced Kate Cross had to lead this young pack and she did. She was exceptional with the new ball on Day 1 and reduced South Africa to 89-5. She took 4-63 including the wicket of skipper Sune Luus.
The domestic sensation and the fastest bowler amongst the English speedsters Wong opened her international wickets’ column by dismissing Wolvaardt. Bell was also impressive in her 1st international outing and plucked her maiden wicket by catching Lee LBW with a beautiful inswinger. She ended with the figure of 2-47 including the wicket of the centurion, Kapp.
Amongst the Protea pacers, debutant Anneke Bosch was the most impressive. She cleaned up the English opening pair and sent back the consistent Dunkley to the dugout early. But surprisingly, Marizanne Kapp is still wicketless after playing two test matches.
South Africa are missing their leader Dane van Niekerk
In a venue like Bristol which is tricky to bat on, South Africa still managed to score a massive total of 284 from 89-5 at one stage. SA also started Day 2 very well and took England's first 5 wickets in just 121 runs. But captain Luus couldn’t keep that initial pressure on England batters in the latter part of the inning. She gave the best bowler Bosch only 18 overs which is only less than all bowers except Luus herself. Also, the lack of experience and courage to take tough and quick calls made things harder for South Africa on the field. With the retirement of Du Preez from longer formats and Lee from international cricket just after a week of the Test match, South Africa need their regular captain Dane van Niekerk more to plug the holes in leadership and top-order batting. Her astute captaincy and brave decision-making are what SA missing badly right now.
Marizanne Kapp’s stoic batting kept SA in the hunt
Kapp yet again showed why she has been regarded as the best all-rounder at the moment in women’s cricket if not cricket in general. From 89-5, she took South Africa to 276-9 before getting out on a mammoth score of 150 in just 213 deliveries. The best things about Kapp’s batting are the range of shots she possesses, she guides the lower-order batters and instills confidence in them throughout the partnerships. She made a 72-run stand with Bosch, a 41-run stand with de Klerk and a 49-run partnership with Sekhukhune before Beaumont took a brilliant catch at mid-off to Kapp's heroics.
In the 2nd innings too, South Africa looked up to Kapp to save them from a collapse and loss. And she didn’t disappoint as she remained not out on 43 off 58 and ensured at least 2 points for SA from this one-off Test.
Nobody can get Nat Sciver out
The battle of who is the best all-rounder continued as Sciver put up a greater response to Kapp’s 150 with a blistering knock of 169* off 263. When skipper Knight got out through the most bizarre fashion of dismissals, run-out. Her deputy Sciver had the onus to bail her team out from 86-3. She made the biggest partnership of the test match of 207 runs with Davidson-Richards. She not only helped her team to cross the SA total but also ensured a lead of 133. From the World Cup final against Australia to the Test match against SA, she’s still standing tall with unbeaten scores of 148 and 169 against the world's best bowling sides.
The Fairytale comeback of Davidson-Richards
After making her white-ball debut in India back in 2018, she didn’t get another opportunity to make her mark. But with a strong domestic performance, she has made her way into the England XI and this time left the brightest mark after donning the whites for the first time. Her maiden test scalp was de Klerk in the 1st inning. While batting, she came into a precarious situation when England lost back-to-back wickets of Dunkley and Jones and England were reduced to 121 for 5. Then Richards joined Sciver in the middle and stitched a partnership of 207. And she also became a part of the history book by scoring a test ton in her maiden test inning. She fell on the last ball of the day 2 for 107 but left England in an undefeatable position.
The Sekhukhune Resistance
The night-watcher Sekhukhune who came to save the wickets at the end of day 3, left the pitch after day 4 as a savior after playing a defiant inning of 33* off 134 deliveries. Left-handers are a rarity in the South African team. When the other southpaw Goodall and Wolvaardt went back to the pavilion within the score of 45, SA still were 88 runs behind from England's lead. Sekhukhune joined her captain Luus in the middle and played out Day 3. On day 4, she held one end strongly and made a 54-run stand with Lee (36 off 51) and a 63-run stand with Kapp (43* off 58). With her stoic batting, SA left England winless for the 5th time in the last 5 years.
Women's Test cricket is here to stay
Despite rain playing the spoilsport, we got to witness another exciting test match in just 1 year. But this draw raised the question of having 5 days yet again, more importantly by the players themselves. For the first time in a women’s test match, 3 centuries have been made by the players which came off under 200 balls. But due to the lack of regular test matches and the having only 4 days, players who do not even have any test match experience have to play with an unnecessary burden of producing a result and making the game exciting and fast-forwarding to attract the eyeballs. But these women are still succeeding by a great margin despite all those terms and conditions that have been constantly put on them. Test cricket may not be a viable option for all the boards, but the nations who are in a position to play the longest format should be encouraged to play more matches.
South Africa 1st inn – 284 (91.4) M, Kapp 150 (213), A. Bosch 30 (58); K. Cross 4/63 (17.4), L. Bell 2/47 (16)
England 1st inn – 417/8 (120) N. Sciver 169* (263), A. Davidson-Richardson 107* (194); A. Bosch 3/77 (18), N. Mlaba 2/74 (22)
South Africa 2nd inn – 181/5 (68.1) M. Kapp 43* (58), L. Lee 36 (51); K. Cross 2/56 (18), I. Wong 2/46 (14.1)