'Guinea pig' Cross revels in 'amazing' first night of the Hundred

London (AFP) –


Manchester Originals captain Kate Cross proclaimed the opening match of the Hundred an "amazing night for women's cricket" even though she ended on the losing side in Wednesday's inaugural match of the new event.

An unbeaten fifty by opposing skipper Dane van Niekerk saw the Oval Invincibles triumph by five wickets as they chased down a target of 136 with two balls spare in south London.

One of the England and Wales Cricket Board's stated aims in introducing the new eight-team 100 balls per side format was raising the profile of the women's game.

And after a year's delay to the tournament launch, because of the coronavirus pandemic, they remained true to that ambition with this standalone women's match marking the arrival of the Hundred.

"I don't think I can come off a cricket pitch and be more pleased at a loss," Cross told reporters.

"It was the most electric atmosphere and I have never played in front of that before," the England pace bowler added.

"An amazing night for women's cricket and almost the perfect night apart from the result!"

The Originals were well-placed when, after posting a total of 135-6, Cross took two wickets in consecutive balls.

But van Niekerk's fifth-wicket partnership of 73 with wife Marizanne Kapp turned the tide for the Oval-based team.

The South Africa skipper's winning boundary, an edged four past the wicketkeeper, produced shrieks of delight from her young fan club, with Cross insisting she had relished the atmosphere.

- 'History-makers' -

"I said to the girls before the biggest thing was enjoy everything, enjoy the occasion and the crowd because we have made history," Cross explained.

"Regardless of the result, we are history-makers so to enjoy it as much as we did, I think that is why we feel like we haven't lost the game.

"We were the guinea pigs and I am so glad for the tournament it comes off and we got the night we wanted.

"I felt the atmosphere even when I was in the ring, I couldn't speak to anyone because it was so loud."

Meanwhile, an elated van Niekerk, who finished on 56 not out, said: "It was electric and incredible, an experience to feel it and I think the crowd carried us at the back end.

"It didn't feel like the first game of the Hundred, it felt like something that had been there all the time.

"It was an incredible experience and I hope people come out for all the games and enjoy the tournament for what it is, really entertaining."

Van Niekerk, who previously represented the Surrey Stars, added: "I have played here before, but it was definitely the biggest crowd I have played in front of at the Oval and shows people are interested in the tournament.

"Like I said before in some interviews, it is still cricket, just the game is a little faster.

"But 100 balls is still 100 balls so hopefully everyone was entertained as much as we were."