Oval Invincibles 107 for 2 (Winfield-Hill 41*, van Niekerk 21*, Arlott 1-8) beat Birmingham Phoenix 106 for 7 (E Jones 29, Capsey 3-15, Villiers 1-15) by eight wickets
Oval Invincibles squeezed the life out of Birmingham Phoenix’s star-studded batting line-up with spin, boosting their qualification hopes and leaving Southern Brave as the only unbeaten side across the women’s Hundred.
Invincibles’ decision to leave Dane van Niekerk out of their last two games was a seismic one: she was their captain and the tournament’s MVP as they lifted the trophy last season, but with four overseas players permitted in the squad and Suzie Bates in excellent form, she was squeezed out of the side.
But with her wife Marizanne Kapp rested for the Phoenix game with a sore quadriceps, van Niekerk returned to the side. “It has been tough sitting out,” she admitted at the toss, resuming captaincy duties after Bates had been deputised, as her decision to bowl first was vindicated by an impressive performance from her bowlers.
With the bat, she was not at her fluent best but still made a telling contribution from No. 4 in what was her first innings since last year’s WBBL final. Van Niekerk was reprieved early on when Amy Jones fumbled a run-out chance, but consecutive boundaries – one swept, one pulled – off Georgia Elwiss removed any scoring pressure from the chase.
She ended up unbeaten on 21 off as many balls, leaving Invincibles’ coach Jon Batty with another tough decision to make when Kapp returns to fitness.
Phoenix came into this game with a 100% record to protect but never got going with the bat. Sophie Devine fell early, top-edging a sweep into the leg side to be caught-and-bowled by Smale – the 17-year-old left-arm spinner – as Eve Jones’ anchoring, run-a-ball 29 was the only contribution of note.
Smale, Capsey and Villiers removed all of the top five between them. Capsey had Amy Jones caught slapping to point, while Villiers’ arm ball accounted for Ellyse Perry, who was smartly stumped by Winfield-Hill. Capsey bowled Eve Jones and Sophie Molineux as Phoenix slipped from 64 for 2 to 71 for 5, and they could only sneak up to 106 despite Emily Arlott’s late blows.
Invincibles cruise home
Winfield-Hill and Bates set the tone in the chase with three boundaries in the first seven balls, getting Invincibles ahead of the run rate. And despite Bates falling inside the powerplay, Capsey signalled her intent by hammering her third ball down the ground for six. When Winfield-Hill hit Molineux for four and six in the first set of the powerplay, the rest of the innings was a formality.
“It was a big game for us,” Capsey said. “Everyone came out with the energy of wanting to be part of a big occasion. I tend to thrive on the big moments; it narrows my focus a bit more. At the moment, within this team, I’m really backed to take the positive option which is amazing. It gives me great confidence.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98