Oval Invincibles win opening Hundred game with Manchester Originals through Dane van Niekerk heroics

Say what you like about The Hundred – and almost everyone has – but a last-over victory for Oval Invincibles against Manchester Originals on the tournament’s first evening was the stuff of ECB dreams.

As Invincibles captain Dane van Niekerk sliced Kate Cross to the third-man fence to finish with an unbeaten 56 off 42 balls and seal victory with two to spare, a crowd of 7,395 rose to its feet.

It was the kind of acclamation to persuade administrators – in case they had any doubt – that they are on the right track.  

Dane van Niekerk was the hero for Oval Invincibles, who beat Manchester Originals in the first ever Hundred match at The Oval in London

The South African hit a half-century at the Oval as the Invincibles chased down 136 to win


There may be stumbles ahead for a format widely derided in advance, but on a balmy night of fireworks, flames and promises of a brave new world, there was no beating the age-old joy of a tight finish.

At 36 for four, the Invincibles still needed another 100 from 68 deliveries. But van Niekerk added 75 in 50 with her wife, Marizanne Kapp, before Kapp was brilliantly stumped by Eleanor Thelkeld. England spinner Mady Villiers then helped complete the job with a sparky 16 in eight balls, prompting van Niekerk to label her ‘a superstar in the making’.

She added: ‘The atmosphere was electric. The fans pushed us over the line, and it was one of the top moments in my career. It didn’t feel like the first game of The Hundred. I hope everyone was entertained as much as we were.’

The Oval hosted the first ever Hundred match ever between the Invincibles and the Originals

Marizanne Kapp (left) got the first Hundred wicket as Emma Lamb went for a two-ball duck

The result was tough on Cross, who had removed three of the top four, and at one stage was on a hat-trick, though no one was quite sure if the terminology had changed. Earlier, she had hit the competition’s first six. Forget motion-capture avatars, Lego figures and the mid-innings music of Becky Hill: Cross’s infectious smile could be the best marketing tool of the lot.

‘We couldn’t have asked for a better opening game,’ she said graciously. ‘We were making history tonight and the result was almost irrelevant.’

England captain Heather Knight, who will play for London Spirit but was here for the BBC, had described the decision to start the competition with a women’s game as a ‘huge statement. They want this tournament to be gender-neutral.’

Originals opener Lizelle Lee (left) hit 42 as the Manchester side ended their innings on 135-6

Originals captain Kate Cross hit back-to-back early wickets to get the Invincibles’ top order out

Perhaps conscious of the pressure, the players displayed some early first-night nerves. The opening delivery, from Kapp, was a leg-side wide, which Lizelle Lee fell over trying to hit towards the gasometer. Behind the stumps, Georgia Bryce fumbled the take. It was not an ideal start.

But as the players got their heads round the occasion, there was plenty to enjoy. Kapp removed Emma Lamb for a duck, while Lee went on to a 38-ball 42 before becoming the first of three wickets for left-arm seamer Tash Farrant.

The best batting, though, was a reminder that wheels are not often reinvented, no matter the hype, and some of the shots in Indian star Harmanpreet Kaur’s 16-ball 29 would have graced a Test.

But van Niekerk fought back, and by the end even the fact that the game overran by 10 minutes evaporated into the night sky. 

Invincibles’ Dane van Niekerk hit a brilliant half-century to haul the hosts back into the tie

Van Niekerk’s (right) heroics allowed Mady Villiers (left) to hit the winning shots at the Oval