Match Analysis

Women take top billing as Winfield-Hill, Capsey revel on Hundred opening night

Oval stands remain full for second half of a potentially ground-breaking double-header

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Lauren Winfield-Hill and Alice Capsey celebrating after completing victory  •  Getty Images

Lauren Winfield-Hill and Alice Capsey celebrating after completing victory  •  Getty Images

Two players at opposite ends of their careers revelled in the limelight when Oval Invincibles picked up where they left off as defending women's Hundred champions, with a resounding nine-wicket victory over Northern Superchargers.
On her 18th birthday, Alice Capsey, couldn't think of a better way to celebrate as the home side overhauled their target of 144 with 16 balls to spare, the competition's highest successful run-chase, beating Southern Brave's pursuit of 141 against Birmingham Phoenix last year.
That was thanks largely to Lauren Winfield-Hill, the 31-year-old opener, who scored an unbeaten 74 off 42 balls. Not that Winfield-Hill is going anywhere, but her England career stalled when she was dropped midway through the ODI World Cup earlier this year.
Capsey, meanwhile, a rising star of last year's Hundred, has enjoyed a breakthrough summer at international level and her short but free-flowing knock on Thursday night sealed victory.
Both sides were brimming with big-name players and Alyssa Healy, the formidable Australia opener, looked set to break a lean spell dating back to her 170 in April's World Cup final when she struck Mady Villiers for a huge six down the ground on the second ball of the match.
She was dropped by Shabnim Ismail at mid-on two balls later, and fours off that delivery and the next also looked ominous. But then she chipped Sophia Smale, the 17-year-old Welsh left-arm spinner who was a late injury replacement in Invincibles' squad, to Suzie Bates at mid-off and departed for 15, that was that.
Jemimah Rodrigues kept up the form she showed towards the back end of India's silver-medal campaign at the Commonwealth Games with 51 off 32 balls, while Laura Wolvaardt, who scored three consecutive fifties in South Africa's recent ODI series with England, added 49.
Capsey sent a scare through the Invincibles' camp when she rolled her ankle while fielding early in Superchargers' innings. She was still feeling the effects when she came in at No. 3 in the chase, after Bates fell for 46, although she didn't show it, other than through a reluctance to run singles as she peppered the boundary on her way to 25 off just eight balls. She was pretty nimble skipping down the pitch to launch Jenny Gunn for a straight six and followed that with four fours on the trot off Linsey Smith to close out the win.
That was after the vastly experienced Winfield-Hill, who has played 100 games for her country, had earned Player-of-the-Match honours with a wonderful knock against her former side. She shared an opening stand of 104 with New Zealand veteran Bates, who came in as the home side's third overseas player when South Africa allrounder Marizanne Kapp fell ill before the match.
Dane van Niekerk, the Invincibles captain playing her first competitive match since November after breaking her ankle, bowled 15 of her maximum 20 balls, conceding 19. Capsey, meanwhile, claimed 1 for 6 off one five-ball set shortly before her fielding mishap, and she returned to the field after icing her ankle to take a catch running in from the cover boundary to remove Rodrigues.
So there was drama, there were plenty of runs, and there were twin home victories to thrill the crowd and they responded in kind by showing their support.
The question of whether the tournament's decision to invert last year's double-header model and put the men's match on as the curtain-raiser to the women's "worked" depends on what it intended to do.
In terms of providing equality, it did, albeit for one match only, as the remaining double-headers this season will revert to the 2021 format of the women playing before the men. More telling will be if the women playing in the headline slot becomes a regular event next year.
Winfield-Hill was hopeful that it would. And, on Thursday night's showing at The Oval, there is a strong argument to say that it should.
A packed house of 21,330 roared the Invincibles men to victory over Superchargers with just three balls to spare in a thrilling finish in the 3pm fixture. And, while clear pockets appeared in the stands where some had left, the majority stayed on, with the crowd for the women's game estimated to be 15-16,000 - twice as many as watched the standalone opening game in 2021.
"Today we were wondering whether a lot of people would stay or what the atmosphere in the crowd would be like but it was so loud, honestly," Winfield-Hill said. "We were trying to communicate in the field and get the fielders' attention and it was so hard to hear each other.
"A massive thanks to everyone that stayed and watched the game because that's what we want, isn't it? We want to play in front of packed crowds and great atmospheres. You grow up wanting to put on a show and be an entertainer, so it's fantastic."
"We all know this the primetime spot, so the more that we can be exposed to that and the more people are seeing us play on TV and knowing that girls can play cricket, hopefully you captivate a new audience," she added.
"I think as the Hundred evolves in the next few years, we'll see that change with the times of fixtures. It's a long day waiting to play and trying to keep yourself occupied and your mind busy, but to play in front of a crowd like that was awesome."
The atmosphere was exactly what a number of women - including Capsey - who played last year have credited with priming them for high-pressure situations at international level.
"It's set young players up like myself to have confidence in taking that step up into international cricket," Capsey said. "The Hundred was a massive thing for me and playing in front of these kinds of crowds, it's massive."
Massive enough to make it commonplace? We'll have to wait to find out.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo