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The shirts fit for Hundred pioneers as opening night provides the fireworks

After the hype and anxiety, the Oval's curtain-raiser lives up to its billing

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Waiting at the station in deepest, greenest Surrey for a train to The Kia Oval, a young woman walked onto the platform in a vibrant royal blue shirt, clearly the kit of some sports team. Could she be a London Spirit fan, off to heckle their crosstown rivals or simply see what this Hundred thing was all about?
As she came properly into view, so too did the unmistakable sponsor's logo followed by the mental connection which features prominently on page one of Marketing For Dummies. Within a split second, a young boy, aged no more than four, gleefully exclaimed: "Chelsea! A Chelsea top!"
It was difficult to imagine any of the eight Hundred teams receiving such recognition. Yet, that is the organisers' dream and, presumably the point of the tournament, and I was not yet at the ground.
Disembarking at Vauxhall a young man and woman could be overheard. Him: "Instead of 120 balls, it's 100." Her: "Oh, cool." Encouraging, although they were travelling in the opposite direction.
Upon arrival, there was the familiar buzz of any well-attended cricket match, slightly surprising given the hype surrounding the first-ever match of the Hundred, between Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals. The demographic filing in early were also the same as you'd see at any other fixture.
Once inside, apart from the fluorescent pink-and-green branding we'd become so familiar with, splattered across the advertising hoardings, commentary pod and players' entrance/exit and a funky looking stage with DJ Abbie McCarthy doing her thing, this was cricket at The Oval.
The crowd - far from the 28,000 capacity but healthy all the same at 7,395 - appeared largely made up of families enjoying a balmy summer evening together. And then there they were, a smattering of Oval Invincibles shirts on spectators of various ages, a couple of Southern Vipers - really? Yes, it wasn't the stewards, even though they looked the same. And a lone London Spirit shirt on a bloke in his 20s.
The hum of conversation turned to cheers when the fireworks started to signal that the match was imminent. And so to the cricket.
As a matter of historical note, the first ball was an all-South African affair, Marizanne Kapp bowling to Lizelle Lee after Manchester Originals won the toss and chose to bat. Again for the record, it was a leg-side wide which Lee failed to pull away and Sarah Bryce fumbled behind the stumps. But hey, this tournament had a false start when it had to be postponed last year so what's another on a minor scale? Kapp's second attempt was a full ball, swinging away, which Lee left.
Lee provided some fireworks of her own, well, flame-throwers which greeted her six fours in a knock of 42 off 39 balls, the first cracked through midwicket and the second threaded through mid-off and celebrated with a blast of Insomnia by Faithless via DJ Abbie which was an absolute winner. India star Harmanpreet Kaur struck four fours off Mady Villiers' last five balls in her knock of 29 from 16.
There was "ooh-ing" and "ah-ing" in the right places during the on-field action, suggesting that those watching knew why they were there as opposed to brand new fans who had never seen the sport before. Their appreciation grew to a crescendo as the home side drew closer to their target of 136. By the time Dane van Niekerk, the Invincibles and South Africa captain, struck the winning runs there was singing, waving and dancing in the stands.
Afterwards, van Niekerk, unbeaten on 56, described the atmosphere as "electric", while opposite number Kate Cross was almost oblivious to her side's defeat, such was the quality of the contest and the crowd's appreciation.
A new star was born when a young girl serenaded the ground with her rendition of See You Again by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth to warm applause from the crowd and players alike. But it was the players who enjoyed a stellar evening.
As a showcase for their sport, this contest, which Invincibles won by five wickets with two balls to spare, was perfect. It was close, the international players were at the forefront and the action was easy to follow live. The only thing that seemed remotely tricky to navigate as an observer was the presentation of the scores, a matter of graphics rather than format.
The use of bowlers was fascinating and full of potential from a tactical perspective. Kapp bowled 10 balls straight, claiming the wicket of Emma Lamb with her seventh, Invincibles needing to call upon the DRS - a new feature for domestic cricket in England - to have her caught-behind dismissal confirmed.
Tash Farrant, who conceded nine off her first set of five - including those first two fours by Lee, didn't reappear until ball 71 when she had Lee holing out to Grace Gibbs at cover for the first of her three wickets.
Just when it felt like the one thing lacking was a shot to clear the rope, Cross advanced down the pitch to Danielle Gregory and thumped a six over long-on. Sophie Ecclestone obliged in similar style off Farrant a short time later before she was stumped on the next ball, the 99th of the innings.
Cross finished not out 12 from four balls. Then, with her side defending 135, Cross, who took an ODI five-for against India last month, claimed three wickets in seven deliveries and the hosts looked in trouble.
It was a 75-run partnership between Kapp and van Niekerk that kept Invincibles in the hunt. Then van Niekerk was ably supported by Villiers, who struck a six off fellow England spinner Ecclestone to reduce the hosts' requirement to eight runs from eight balls. Villiers drew the scores level with a four and a single, leaving the rest to her captain, for whom the win clearly meant a lot.
Whether the eight teams become household names remains to be seen, but organisers couldn't have hoped for too much more as a starting point.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo