CAPE TOWN - Cricket entered a brave new world in England this week and its the Proteas Women's stars that are burning the torches brightest.
And it’s none other than their captain Dane van Niekerk that is blazing away at the forefront. Van Niekerk announced her comeback to competitive cricket from a lengthy injury setback with a match-winning performance in the inaugural match of English cricket's new The Hundred competition on Wednesday.
Van Niekerk struck 56 not out off 42 balls to take her team, the Oval Invincibles, over the line against the Manchester Originals with just two balls to spare in front of a roaring 7500-strong crowd at The Oval.
"The crowd was amazing, team was brilliant, I felt the atmosphere, the fans pushed us over the line, one of the top moments in my career," Van Niekerk enthused after the game.
"It's been a tough 12 months, injury wise, and I was really nervous. But I put in a lot of work and I was glad I pulled through for the team."
Van Niekerk was part of five-star Proteas contingent with her wife Marizanne Kapp bowling the first delivery of the tournament to fellow South African Lizelle Lee earlier in the day.
Kapp also had the honour of taking the competition's first wicket when she had Emma Lamb caught behind for a duck, but it was Lee that held the Originals' innings together with 42 off 39 balls. Fellow Proteas middle-order batter Mignon du Preez contributed 10 off 13 balls, although Shabnim Ismail had a rare wicket less day.
The first-ever win goes to Oval Invincibles! 🙌— The Hundred (@thehundred) July 21, 2021
What a moment! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/6u4hauRUD3
Kapp, though, is not the No 2 ranked ODI all-rounder in the world for no reason as she later played an influential role with the bat too.
The Invincibles' pursuit of victory was filtering away at 36/4 when Kapp joined Van Niekerk at the crease. The married couple combined in perfect harmony to add 73 runs for the fifth wicket before Kapp departed for 38 off 27 balls (3x4, 2x6).
But by then the job had been completed with Mady Villiers accompanying Van Niekerk over the line, with the skipper appropriately hitting the winning boundary.
"I panicked a little bit, I felt we were behind the eight-ball, but Kappy and I kept each other calm, and Mady is a superstar in the making. It wasn't the easiest wicket to bat on, but you got good value for your runs."