Anyone who thinks that short-format cricket is a batter’s game might want to check in with the record crowd of 20,840 at Lord’s on Saturday: 12 wickets fell and nobody managed to score more than 37 runs.
That honour went to Marizanne Kapp, who somehow dragged Oval Invincibles across the line against Southern Brave to clinch their second consecutive Hundred title, chasing down a target of 102 with six balls to spare.
If last year’s final against the same opposition had been a routing: this was a nervous scramble, in which Kapp – 37 not out off 33 balls – eventually required support from No 7 Emily Windsor. Windsor had not faced a ball all season but contributed 13 from 15 deliveries including the winning boundary, struck through point.
“I told myself to bat within myself a bit,” Kapp said. “I felt like just take it easy, stay there and bat for as long as possible. I’m not big on the parties but I think I will celebrate with the team tonight.”
Kapp’s contribution came after Invincibles’ leading run-scorers Lauren Winfield-Hill and Suzie Bates had departed for single figures: Winfield-Hill stumped off Anya Shrubsole in the second set, before Bates was unlucky to be bowled after edging a ball on to her ankle which then rebounded into the stumps.
Alice Capsey was put down twice – by Shrubsole at short fine leg, and Smriti Mandhana at mid-off – and clattered a six down the ground on her way to 25 off 17. But she then handed an easy scalp to Georgia Adams, bowled attempting a reverse-sweep; before Lauren Bell broke the defences of Mady Villiers.
From there it took nerves of steel, hard running, and a handful of well-placed boundaries from Kapp to ensure Invincibles got home.
Less than 24 hours after an onslaught from Nat Sciver in the Eliminator at the Ageas Bowl almost tipped them out of contention, Brave had been restricted to 101 for seven having opted to bat first against the best bowling attack in the competition.
Invincibles seem to have a knack of launching the careers of young unknowns; following on from Capsey in 2021, Sophie Smale – a 17-year-old left-arm spinner who was selected at the last minute as an injury replacement – has enjoyed her own time in the spotlight, not least in this final.
Having helped restrict Brave to 17 in the first 20 balls, she chimed in with the crucial wicket of Mandhana, taking a handy catch off her own bowling.
Nine balls earlier, Danni Wyatt miscued a pull and Shabnim Ismail snaffled her own, brilliant caught-and-bowled in her follow-through.
Brave stumbled to 51 for 2 at the halfway mark and just as Sophia Dunkley and Tahlia McGrath looked set to unleash the shackles, McGrath was bowled playing round a straight one from Eva Gray and Dunkley became the first of Capsey’s two victims, edging to Winfield-Hill behind the stumps.
Ismail and Kapp then did their usual thing at the death, leaving Brave to post a meagre-looking total of 101 for seven. Just eight boundaries had been struck in the entire innings – none from the last 25 balls.
It should have been an easy chase for Invincibles but it proved anything but. However, despite contending with the strange dynamics of ending a tournament with a different captain to the one they started with (Dane van Niekerk again superseded by Bates), they somehow managed to find a way to win.