The Hundred's boast of "the best vs the best" only really holds weight in the women's competition. On Saturday, in a final played on a pitch not conducive to entertaining cricket, it needed the best more than ever.
Thankfully, there was Marizanne Kapp
. A cricketer with an insatiable desire to take charge of games, regardless of the surface. A person who does what she can to avoid awkward situations - such as dealing with deliveries not quite coming onto the bat and the lingering embarrassment about potentially falling short of a very gettable target of 102 - and remedies all those anxieties by dominating them anyway.
For the second year in a row
, Kapp bent the Hundred final to her whim with both bat and ball. Oval Invincibles are champions once more, a fine Southern Brave outfit bested for consecutive seasons by a team who have the most exciting blend of kids, upstarts, established sorts and all-stars.
That's now two Hundred medals to go with Kapp's three Big Bash Leagues, if you're keeping count. Kapp certainly is. At 32, it is not a great leap to suggest the allrounder is entering a phase of her career where she has to look out for number one. We are in a new age of women's cricket where the international scene is skewed once again to the usual three. And in many ways, that can exacerbate the sadness that some players will never quite get the stages they deserve. Finals, Test matches, prime-time television slots.
No-one is entitled to them outright, but at a time when Kapp's South Africa career feels at its most perilous, there's something to be said for the last nine months. She was player of the match in the WBBL final with an unbeaten 31 and one for 25
, then picked up her maiden Test century
against England before this success at Lord's in front of a new domestic record crowd of 20,840.
This was only Kapp's fourth game of in this year's Hundred after illness and ailments interrupted her participation. But she finishes as Invincibles' third-highest run-scorer with 126 - her average enhanced by just the one dismissal, while boasting a strike rate of 138, along with four useful wickets.
Her bowling in this final (one for 19) was not as devastating as last year's four for nine, but the unbeaten 37 - which followed scores of 34 not out and 36 not out in the previous two games to top the group - was perhaps the embodiment of what someone like Kapp brings. Their total upon her arrival after Suzie Bates' dismissal - 33 - was the same when Alice Capsey
's engaging innings came to an end on 25. With the ball a little older and up against an attack with a bit of everything, marshalled by Anya Shrubsole
, a tight finish was coming into view. And when Mady Villiers and then Kira Chathli were unable to offer adequate support, an equation of 24 from 33 had a whiff of jeopardy to it.
The interesting thing here is Kapp would only hit one more four: manoeuvring outside leg stump to carve Tahlia McGrath through backward point to leave Invincibles needing just two from the last eight. Her four other boundaries up to that point ensured the runs required were lower than balls left, which is how it remained through some calculated punches and dabs into pockets.
"I was just telling myself and my batting partner to stay there for as long as possible and keep on looking straight," said Kapp after the match. "It was a tricky wicket, not easy to bat on, and I just felt if we take it as deep as possible, they would have to bring fielders up and we'd get the shots through."
The message was heeded by Emily Windsor
, who was greeted about two-thirds of the way to the pitch by an animated Kapp, who had taken off her gloves to ensure her wild gesticulating as to where they should look for their runs would not be lost. Windsor logged it all, immediately cutting to the boundary rider out at cover to get her senior partner on strike. Her diligence was rewarded with the honour of striking the winning runs through point.
Windsor celebrated as anyone in her position would: beaming with elation during the best moment of her career to date. Having notionally touched down at the other end, she span and rushed towards Kapp, whose smile spoke more of joy for what Windsor was feeling rather than what she herself had helped accomplished. Following their hug, Kapp bent down on one knee as she does after her highest points.
One can only imagine what she was thinking. Even amid the glory, this has been a tumultuous summer, from missing the Commonwealth Games after her brother-in-law suffered an accident
that left him in intensive care, to the general grind of being in England for more or less the entire summer while her South Africa side were beaten and dragged all over the country. Quite how she was able to summon this all speaks of her spirit.
She was with her own thoughts for all of five seconds before her Invincibles team-mates rushed to embrace her, including her wife, Dane van Niekerk
, who has had to make do with the bench for the latter part of this competition. An hour later, she strode into her press conference speaking of relief at getting to experience "an absolutely amazing feeling" once more.
"It was a bit more nerve-wracking this year around," she ceded. "But I'm happy to be sitting here." Who'd back against her and Invincibles being back here again for a third time next year? The complete allrounder for the complete team.