Kate Cross: ‘Regardless of the result, we’re history makers’

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Dane van Niekerk, meanwhile, was thrilled by “the biggest crowd that I’ve played in front of at The Oval”

Players were “buzzing” after soaking up an “electric” atmosphere and making history on the opening night of the Hundred.

The Oval Invincibles won by five wickets with two balls to spare on the back of an unbeaten fifty by their captain Dane van Niekerk, but even Kate Cross, her opposite number on the losing Manchester Originals side, felt like she’d won something.

And she had. Winner of the first toss, choosing to bat despite thinking for months leading up to the game that she would field first in an attempt to settle inevitable nerves by allowing her side to absorb the occasion together on the field.

Striker of the first six, stepping down the pitch to slap Danielle Gregory over long-on, a look of sheer delight spreading across her face before she’d even finished her swing. She also cheerfully owned up to bowling the first front-foot no-ball.

“First” stats lose meaning when they are part and parcel of playing the first match of the first tournament of its kind. But most meaningful to Cross was the slice of history she, her team, and the opposition for that matter were part of.

“It feels like a win,” Cross said. “I don’t feel like we’ve lost that game of cricket. It’s a strange feeling but I just can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it.

“There’s a lot of learning while we’re out there but I said to the girls, tonight my biggest thing was first and foremost, enjoy everything. Enjoy the crowd, enjoy the occasion because we’ve made history. Regardless of the result. I said that’s irrelevant, we’re history makers.

“Let’s be honest, we were the guinea pigs. No one knew what tonight was going to look like and I’m so glad for the tournament, I’m so glad for everyone that’s worked so hard behind the scenes… they got the night they wanted and hopefully people enjoyed it.”

Cross had an excellent night, scoring 12 off just four balls, claiming three wickets with her first seven deliveries and leading her side with distinction.

The crowd of 7395 was well below The Oval’s capacity of 28,000, and while it didn’t feel massive, it felt highly respectable. The atmosphere began as interested anticipation, grew quickly into enthusiasm once the match got underway, and as the home side neared their target of 136 the place was jumping.

“Honestly, I don’t think I could come off a cricket pitch and be more pleased with a loss,” Cross said. “Genuinely it was the most electric atmosphere, I’ve never played in front of a crowd like that before.

“A new tournament with new rules, a lot of nerves around the group, a lot of unknowns, I couldn’t be prouder of the girls, I couldn’t be prouder of our performance.

“It was just an amazing night for women’s cricket, it felt like it was almost a perfect night for what the tournament needed to open. I’m absolutely buzzing, I don’t think I’m going to get to sleep tonight.”

For van Niekerk, the win clearly meant something too. As she edged Cross to the rope at deep third to seal victory, she stretched her arms wide in triumph.

“I was just really happy that that the first match of the Hundred was so entertaining,” van Niekerk said. “A bit more stressful than we wanted it to be but it was nice to give the crowd something to watch and I hope everyone enjoyed themselves.

“It was electric, it was incredible. The crowd carried us at the back end.”

The trick for Hundred’s organisers will be maintaining that warm afterglow.

“I hope that people come out every single game like that and enjoy this tournament, it’s really entertaining,” van Niekerk said. “I played for Surrey Stars for two years and it was definitely the biggest crowd that I’ve played in front of at The Oval and it showed that people are interested in this tournament.

“I hope that the people saw that it’s still cricket, it’s just a little bit shorter and a little bit faster, but the skill is still up there, it’s still exciting. A hundred balls is a hundred balls but it’s still cricket and I hope everyone was entertained as much as we were.”

As a standalone contest, this match was keenly fought, high quality and entirely watchable. You can bet the men will set out to be at least as competitive and entertaining when they begin their tournament with the corresponding teams meeting at The Oval on Saturday night.

Whether the Hundred is enough of a twist on the game already loved by many to attract new fans, whether it differs from T20 sufficiently to last long-term, and whether it will harm other formats as much as some fear, no one knows. But at least it’s started with a bit of a buzz.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo



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