Johannesburg - Marizanne Kapp smiled. That’s a rare thing, but so’s a Test century.
With arms aloft, she turned to the change-room, her smile matched those of her teammates, who all stood, rightfully and applauded, one of the best Test knocks by a South African player. It was a much-needed one too, because when Kapp arrived at the crease South Africa’s position was a precarious one.
Having been inserted by England captain Heather Knight, the Proteas, playing the country’s first Test in eight years, struggled against the new Dukes ball which was being used for the first time in a women’s Test match. The visitors lost openers Andrie Steyn and Laura Wolvaardt in the opening hour and by the time Kapp arrived at the crease, they’d slumped to 45/4.
It was a disappointing start but that was understandable. Besides the large gap since the 2014 Test in India, there were also nine debutants in the Proteas’s starting team, including skipper Sune Luus. Kapp and Lizelle Lee were the only survivors from that 2014 match, which also featured a century by Mignon du Preez.
Kapp’s was an aggressive innings, but a far from reckless one. She took advantage when England missed their lines, peppering the offside with some thumping stroke play through the cover region in particular.
England had been superb in the morning, led by Kate Cross, a crafter seamer who moves the ball both ways and took 4/63, while debutants Lauren Bell and the lively Issy Wong, provided good support. Steyn mis-judged a straight ball from Cross, which clattered into her off-stump, while Wolvaardt, who looked like she was just starting to settle in, was bowled through the gate by Wong for 16.
Lara Goodall, was trapped leg before wicket by Nat Sciver, and Lizelle Lee made a seven-ball duck, to leave the Proteas in deep trouble.
Kapp and Luus added 44 runs for the fourth wicket, before Luus was undone by Cross’s brilliance edging an outswinger to Sciver, who took an excellent catch diving to her left at third slip.
Thereafter Kapp found the partner she needed in Anneke Bosch who overcame early nerves, before striking some lovely boundaries on her way to scoring 30. The sixth wicket partnership was worth 72 and most importantly, because of how Bosch played, it took some of the pressure off Kapp for over an hour.
The 32-year-old Kapp, who took her first international ‘five’for’ at the World Cup earlier this year and already has a One-Day International century to her name, then proceeded to add the next landmark in her stellar career.
With a top edge over the vacant slip region for four, she reached the magical figure, the smile broke across her face, the arms went in the air and she shared a hug with batting partner at the time, Sinalo Jaftha. On twitter, Kapp’s wife Dane van Niekerk, admitted to shedding a tear. She wouldn’t have been the only one.
Once passed the century mark, Kapp, opened up, crushing boundaries as she farmed the strike and took South Africa to a position, from which they will feel they have a grip on the game. She was brilliantly caught at mid-off by Tammy Beaumont, for 150, an innings that lasted nearly four and a half hours, in which she faced 213 balls and hit 26 fours.
It was the highest score by a no.6 batter in women’s Tests and her teammates would have been grateful for her efforts - as they have been on so many other occasions.