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Marizanne Kapp: 'I played the warm-up and thought I shouldn't be playing Test matches'

Allrounder produces "special" innings to lift South Africa out of trouble on Test return

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Marizanne Kapp swings away a pull during her 150  •  PA Images/Getty

Marizanne Kapp swings away a pull during her 150  •  PA Images/Getty

It was only four days ago that Marizanne Kapp thought she wasn't cut out for Test cricket. She had one cap to her name, hadn't played in the format for more than seven years, hadn't had any experience in multi-innings matches since then and in a red-ball warm-up against England A scored a duck, took no wickets, then smashed 34 off 28 balls, including six fours, and did not bowl again.
"I played that warm-up game and thought I shouldn't be playing Test matches, because I was playing [like it was] a T20," Kapp said afterwards. "But if you just take it ball by ball, and forget about the colour of the ball that's coming towards you, it helps a lot."
So Kapp put aside her misgivings despite being "very nervous", put on her whites and lined up to play in South Africa's first Test since 2014. She remembers that one as "an absolute nightmare", as South Africa lost by an innings and 34 runs and this one was starting to look like it could become similar at 47 for 4. South Africa's top-order were shot out and Kapp was left to marshal an inexperienced middle- and lower-order. As it turned out, that is exactly the kind of situation she thrives in.
"It helps me more than it helps them [the lower order]," she said. "If I focus on the other batter, it seems to take pressure off me. When I give advice, I forget the situation we are in and it helps me focus a bit more."
She shared in a 72-run sixth-wicket stand with Anneke Bosch, South Africa's best partnership, and 41 and 49 runs for the seventh and ninth-wicket respectively, where she was the dominant partner. Sinalo Jafta scored only four runs off 39 balls in their partnership and Tumi Sekhukhune 9 off 26 when Kapp was dismissed. In that time, Kapp got to her century and changed her strategy from off-side dominant run-scoring to finding gaps on the leg side too.
"I knew the older the ball got, I could take on the England bowlers a bit more and I knew they were tired," she said.
Kapp ended with the highest score by a South African woman and the highest by a No. 6 batter in Tests, achievements that far surpass her modest goals. "Usually I aim for 50s, especially in the formats we play," she said. "To come out today and score that 150 is pretty special for me. It's going to be a massive highlight for me."
It's also a testament to the work she has been putting into her batting over the last three years. Since January 2019, Kapp averages 49.50 in ODIs, compared to an overall average of 29.60, and has scored three fifties. She puts it down to more focused training and a greater sense of self-belief.
"At times, it's so difficult to focus on both bowling and batting," she said. "I feel like one always takes preference. I have been working with some special coaches as well, that's really helped me on this journey. The confidence is growing and that's probably why I am starting to play a lot better."
And now that she has had a second, successful taste of Test cricket, does Kapp want more? "At the age where I am at now, it probably wouldn't be the best decision," she said, all of 32 years old, though she hopes the younger generation can benefit from more fixtures. "But I feel like if we want to grow the women's game a bit more, it's needed. It's in Tests where you can try things and learn so much about yourself. I would like to see women play a lot more Tests because it would be good for the game."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent