he opening match of The Hundred got under way with a thriller where more than 250 runs were scored as Oval Invincibles were guided to victory over Manchester Originals by captain Dane van Niekerk.
While the format comes with plenty of new rules, some things remain the same and Van Niekerk’s half-century saw Invincibles chase down a target of 136 for victory by five wickets and with two balls to spare.
It capped a memorable evening in the capital with Marizanne Kapp, Van Niekerk’s wife, also claiming the honour of taking the first wicket despite getting proceedings started with a leg-side wide, but the cricket improved from that point onwards much to the delight of a youthful crowd.
While Originals captain Kate Cross called correctly at the toss and choose to bat first, the opening run of the competition occurred via an extra once fireworks and flame throwers had gone off at the Kia Oval.
Kapp got proceedings under way with a leg-side wide before the first run from the bat went to visiting opener Lee following a pull down to fine leg which almost went to the boundary after Shabnim Ismail initially misfielded.
The South African bowler did make more history soon after, having taken advantage of the chance to bowl 10 consecutive balls, as with her seventh legal delivery Emma Lamb was caught behind by Sarah Bryce for a duck.
Umpire Tim Robinson had made a surprise not-out call, but a review brought about the first wicket of The Hundred before the runs started to flow.
Lizelle Lee, one of five Proteas involved, hit two boundaries off Tash Farrant before number three Georgie Boyce joined the party with two fours off Kapp.
The Originals had reached 36 for one after 25 balls, the end of the powerplay, and it was soon over to the spinners with captain van Nierkerk going through for 10 deliveries and Mady Villiers doing likewise.
It was England international Villiers who snarled the next wicket with Boyce slicing to Georgia Adams at extra cover, which saw India’s T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur the next batter in.
At the halfway point the scoreboard read 59 for two but Kaur quickly supplemented the loud music with an array of expansive shots.
Villiers, who had bowled 10 balls in a row during her first stint, went through again and it quickly turned into a bad decision with four of the final five deliveries sent to the boundary by the right-hander.
Lee’s enterprising innings of 42 was ended by the returning Farrant, who also sent Kaur back to the pavilion after a dashing 16-ball knock of 29.
Originals captain Cross was now at the crease and the skipper sent the ball over the boundary rope for the first time with a heave over long on for an opening six in The Hundred.
Fellow England international Sophie Ecclestone followed suit with a maximum as the visitors made 135 for six from their 100 balls with Kapp and Farrant claiming two scalps apiece, but the biggest cheer of the innings was afforded to a young girl in the crowd for a sterling rendition of Wiz Khalifa’s ‘See You Again’ over a presenter’s microphone.
Cross, fresh from 12 not out from four deliveries, quickly dashed hopes of a home win with two wickets in two balls at the start of the Invincibles innings after singer Becky Hill had entertained the crowd from the DJ stage.
There was to be no opening-night hat-trick but with a score of 26 for three at the end of the powerplay, it looked inevitable the Originals would prove the more invincible team at the Oval this time.
When Cross claimed a third wicket, it seemed conceivable the crowd could be short-changed some deliveries, but captain Van Niekerk – fittingly – developed a partnership with fellow South African Kapp, with the married couple able to wrestle back some momentum.
Two fours off Kaur for Van Niekerk started the fightback, but at the halfway stage 78 runs were required for a home win.
Dropped catches in quick succession suddenly shifted the odds even more with Mignon du Preez only able to parry a tough chance over the boundary rope for six from Kapp which saw the home duo bring up the fifth partnership.
When Van Niekerk coolly reverse swept Lamb for four, it took her onto 43 – the highest score of the match – and made the equation a favourable 37 off 24 balls with six wickets in hand.
Kapp claimed another maximum through cow corner soon after, but – like in the three years from the point this tournament’s concept was unveiled – more twists and turns were on the way with the South African stumped the very next ball by Ellie Threlkeld off Ecclestone.
But Van Niekerk was able to bring up her half-century, the first of the competition with another sumptuous boundary and then Villiers showed her ability with the bat thanks to a timely maximum.
The local fans in attendance were full of noise now and fittingly it was Invincibles captain Van Niekerk who hit the winnings runs, a thick edge flying beyond the wicket-keeper to earn victory with an unbeaten 56 off 42 balls.
It may be a very different format, but ultimately the team with the most runs still win with the hosts’ 139 for five beating the Originals effort of 135 for six.