Marizanne Kapp and art of batting against Dukes

Marizanne Kapp © Getty Images

“I suppose it’s the end of an era and we need to create a new one and see which players are going to stick their hand up and lead the way with the ball. We’ll wait and see how it goes.” Those were the words of England’s Head Coach Lisa Keightley when she was asked to comment upon the void created by the retirements of Katherine Brunt (Test) and Anya Shrubsole ahead of the Taunton Test.

Hence when England took the field under Heather Knight after putting the visitors into bat, there was a sense of buzz around the ground. 

By handing debut caps to quality pacers in Lauren Bell, Issy Wong, and Alice Davidson-Richards, skipper Heather Knight and management gave a curtain-raiser of sorts as to how the dawn of the new era was going to look like. Home crowd, old warhorse in Brunt available for cap presentation, England were all smiles and raring to go.

Dangling the carrot

Kate Cross opened the proceedings from the River end and was straight away able to get prodigious movement. She predominantly tried to bowl outswingers and bowled an absolute peach in the process upfront. She drew Andrie Steyn forward on the last delivery of the first over by pitching it on the fourth stump channel, and the ball just shaped away a fraction at the last moment to miss Steyn’s outside edge.

While Cross began from the River end, Knight tossed the ball to Bell, who started unleashing her big inswingers from the Marcus Trescothick Pavillion end. Bell also produced an unplayable delivery to finish her first over. She brought one back into Laura Wolvaardt from outside of off that crashed into her pads only to be adjudged not out on the field because of excessive lateral movement.

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The first ball of the next over was an event. Cross who was able to take it away from Steyn in the first over managed to nip one back from a length that just missed her off stump by a whisker. 

In just a matter of 13 balls, England’s new-ball bowlers were able to create enough doubts in the minds of South Africa’s opening duo.

Having been beaten on several occasions, Steyn started hanging back and was unwilling to bat outside of her crease – a mistake that saw South Africa’s top order crumble badly.

Steyn’s setup

Andrie Steyn executing a cut through backward point © Sony Liv

Cross bowled a short-pitch delivery to Steyn on the first ball of the fifth over to push the batter further back in her crease. But since Steyn was unwilling to plant her front foot forward and had all her weight on the backfoot it worked out in her favour. She used her lightning-fast hands and biffed the ball backward of point to score the first boundary of the match. 

Andrie Steyn losing her off stump © Sony Liv

One delivery later, Cross pitched it up, the ball held its line and cannoned into Steyn’s off stump, Steyn didn’t cover the line and simply shouldered her arms to let it pass unhindered. The boundary that came on the first delivery through backward-point gave Steyn the belief to trust herself and keep playing from the crease and that’s where she faltered eventually.

Lara Goodall

Lara Goodall defending © Sony Liv

Lara Goodall followed the same suit and started off by batting within the crease. Unsure of the movement, she prodded at the second delivery she faced and was lucky as Sophie Ecclestone failed to grasp it at the second slip. 

Lara Goodall trapped in front © Sony Liv

Goodall was living dangerously as the ball went past her outside edge on multiple occasions but her fortuitous run eventually came to an end in the 17th over. She was hit flush on pads by a delivery that pitched on the middle stump and was adjudged lbw by the third umpire as England cashed in a review.

And the saga continued…..

Lizelle Lee rooted in her crease © Sony Liv

In walked Lizelle Lee as the right-hander replaced the left-hander but the trend of repeating the same error continued. Lee was found rooted in her crease on the fourth delivery of the 18th over and umpire Anna Harris put her finger up as the whole ground reverberated with a loud appeal from Bell and her teammates.

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The delivery jagged back from outside of off and hit Lee’s front pad. She referred it anticipating that it might have struck her outside the line but it wasn’t to be as the replay suggested ‘umpire’s call’ and Harris’ decision was upheld. Had Lee played at that delivery while standing outside of her crease and still got hit, Harris might not have raised her finger considering the distance the ball had to travel but since she was in her crease Harris had no hesitation in raising her finger.

Skipper following suit

Suné Luus batting inside her crease © Getty Images

Skipper Suné Luus was the next to perish. The reluctance to bat outside of the popping crease was also the case with Luus and it almost drew curtains on her innings at the stroke of lunch. 

With no prolific feet movement at all, Luus tried to feel for a good length delivery tailing away from her outside off and the ball took the edge and flew through the slip cordon.

Suné Luus getting nicked off © Sony Liv

But she was not too lucky the next time around and was forced to make a long walk back to the pavilion in the second over post-lunch. Luus’ reluctance led to her demise as she tried defending at a ball pitched in the corridor of uncertainty with just her hands going through with the shot and the edge was grabbed beautifully by Natalie Sciver who dived low to her left and pulled off a one-handed stunner.

A masterclass from Marizanne

Having witnessed the chain of events unfold initially from the dressing room and then from the middle, Marizanne Kapp was geared up for what was going to be a tactical battle more than anything else.

She stood way outside of her crease from the outset to negate the swing and reaped the rewards eventually. Players like Kapp haven’t played Test cricket much but have played enough of red ball cricket from a very tender age that they know how to turn the tides.

By standing way outside of the popping crease after taking her guard, she took a calculated gambit. She gave herself the best possible chance to negate the prodigious movement that the English seamers were able to get with the Dukes. But at the same time intentionally exposed herself to their short deliveries.

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Marizanne Kapp playing a pull © Sony Liv

English seamers tried attacking her with full-fledged short deliveries but she was equal to the task. Cross bowled a bouncer (114 km/hr) on the fourth delivery of the 37th over and Kapp executed a full-blooded pull to thrash it to the mid-wicket fence.

Marizanne Kapp batting outside her crease © Sony Liv

Wong, arguably the quickest of all the England bowlers on display, also tried testing Kapp with a bouncer on the second ball of the 55th over but Kapp played it over the in-field towards the vacant third region to add another four to her kitty. 

It’s not that Knight didn’t try to outmaneuver Kapp. Knight asked wicket-keeper Amy Jones to stand up to the stumps to prevent Kapp from standing outside of the crease. But Kapp was circumspect and the fact that the ball had become older by then also worked in her favour.

Marizanne Kapp © Getty Images

Knight also asked her pacers to bowl short to Kapp with the fine leg and square leg waiting for a mistimed pull but Kapp’s ability to pick length quickly was phenomenal and English bowlers were found dumbstruck.

Marizanne Kapp executing a drive down the ground from outside of her crease © Getty Images

The most noteworthy thing that stood out above everything else was Kapp’s steely resolve to back her tactical decision and it paid dividends right through her innings. In the end, she departed for a well-made 150 runs off 213 balls and it took a high-flying grab from Tammy Beaumont to put an end to a masterclass that will remain etched in the memories of everyone who tuned in to an intriguing day of Test cricket.