|South Africa 284: Kapp 150, Cross 4-63|
|England: Yet to bat|
England were defied by a superb century from South Africa’s Marizanne Kapp on the first day of the one-off Test at Taunton.
All-rounder Kapp made 150, the highest score by a South African woman in Test cricket, and was only dismissed by a spectacular flying catch from Tammy Beaumont.
Kapp’s effort took South Africa to 284 all out, a huge recovery from 45-4 and 89-5 after they had been asked to bat on a green-tinged pitch under a blanket of cloud.
Kate Cross, leading the England attack in the absence of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, picked up 4-63, while there were maiden Test wickets for debutants Lauren Bell, Issy Wong and Alice Davidson-Richards.
England’s fourth debutant, Emma Lamb, was spared a difficult period opening the batting in the late evening, because South Africa’s final wicket fell after the scheduled close of 18:00 BST.
When England begin their reply on Tuesday morning, they will be under an element of pressure because of the brilliance of Kapp.
See-saw struggle as Proteas return to Test stage
The very existence of women’s Test cricket dominated the build-up to this match, after International Cricket Council chairman Greg Barclay said he did not see it “being any part of the landscape moving forward”.
Indeed, if an inexperienced South Africa team had been steamrollered, it could have hurt the argument of those who fight for its survival.
Playing their first Test since 2014, fielding nine debutants and without key players Dane van Niekerk, Chloe Tryon and Shabnim Ismail because of injuries, the Proteas were in danger of being overwhelmed as England impressed early on.
But in Kapp they have one of the game’s fiercest competitors, and she exhibited all of the qualities associated with classical Test cricket in a magnificent innings.
England’s decision to field gave them the maximum amount of time in the four-day contest to take 20 wickets for victory.
Now the face the prospect of having to bat well to ensure they stay in the match.
Cool Kapp keeps South Africa afloat
Kapp’s century was not only impressive in the context of this match, but also in the history of women’s Test cricket.
She made the highest score by a number six, and her tally of 26 fours has only been bettered on three occasions.
Kapp first rebuilt in partnerships of 44 with captain Sune Luus, who made 27, and 72 with Anneke Bosch, who scored 30, but it was the runs she managed to add with the lower order that tipped the momentum in South Africa’s favour.
Forty-one were added with number eight Nadine de Klerk, then 49 with number 10 Tumi Sekhukhune, all while Kapp continued to pepper the off-side fence.
In the end, it took something remarkable from Beaumont to remove her. Fielding at mid-off, Beaumont hung in the air, almost parallel to the ground, to cling on to a fiercely struck drive.
Even after such a monumental knock, Kapp was disappointed, leaving the field to congratulations from the England side and a standing ovation from the crowd.
New-look England’s mixed day
The absence of retired Brunt and Shrubsole meant this match was always going to be a step into the unknown for England, especially with 21-year-old Bell and 20-year-old Wong being asked to perform roles they had never experienced.
Understandably, the debutants had a mixed day. Bell swung the ball for her two wickets but often lost her line. The pacy Wong bowled Laura Wolvaardt in a genuinely thrilling moment and was expensive thereafter, while Davidson-Richards improved after a loose start.
Through it all, Cross remained reliable and returned her best figures in Test cricket. Andrie Steyn was bowled offering no shot and Luus well held at third slip by Nat Sciver. Late in the day, Cross had Sinalo Jafta taken via a leading edge and bowled last batter Nonkululeko Mlaba.
Support came from left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone, who rarely conceded runs and also had Bosch spoon a catch to point.
England could have been sharper in the field – three catches of varying difficulty went down, but none of the mistakes were particularly costly.
They have never lost to South Africa in any of their 12 previous Test meetings, yet know that record will be under threat if they are not at their best for the remainder of this match.
‘Kapp was faultless’ – what they said
England bowler Kate Cross on BBC Test Match Special: “Kapp was outstanding. I don’t think she gave us a chance until she did. She was faultless and it is a pretty special achievement. She farmed the strike so well.
“To say they’ve not played a Test match for however many years and then for her to come out and play like that was absolutely phenomenal.
“To take 10 wickets is a pretty good achievement. It leaves the Test in a really good place. We’re a pretty happy camp at the moment.”
England all-rounder Georgia Elwiss on TMS: “For South Africa to get to 284 they’ll be very pleased to have recovered like that.
“The pitch looks quite flat and we’ve not seen a lot of spin, so both sides will be fairly happy with where they’re at and it sets it up quite nicely for the rest of the game.”