The Women's Hundred 2021
Thrilling finish launches new 100-ball competition
Dane van Niekerk hits the winning runs with two balls to spare at The Hundred makes its debut at The Oval
22 July 2021, 07:58 AM AEST
Three years after the original idea for this 100-ball tournament was unveiled, The Hundred finally got under way and even though the first ball was a leg-side wide, the contest turned into a run-fest much to the delight of the 7,395 spectators in attendance.
By the time Oval Invincibles captain Dane van Niekerk edged the winning runs off her Manchester Originals counterpart Kate Cross with just two balls remaining at The Oval it was a triumph not just for her franchise, but the competition itself.
It was fun, it was close and it all came down to authentic sporting excellence over 22 yards.
The first-ever win goes to Oval Invincibles! 🙌 What a moment! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/6u4hauRUD3— The Hundred (@thehundred) July 21, 2021
As a finale, it was everything the organisers needed it to be.
But was it a success because of the many controversial choices that came along the way or in spite of them?
Did cricket just find a powerful new platform for growth or did its core values shine through despite a confected layer of 'glamour'?
It will take longer to settle that debate.
When the England and Wales Cricket Board put out plans for this unique concept in 2018, equality was a key selling point and the decision to put a women's match on first paid off handsomely.
For the women's game it seems a win-win situation, with the spotlight turned its way in unprecedented fashion on the global circuit.
"I don't think I can come off a cricket pitch and be more pleased at a loss," Cross said.
"It was the most electric atmosphere and I have never played in front of that before. An amazing night for women's cricket and almost the perfect night apart from the result!"
While it is a new format and overs are no longer part of the lexicon, with the scoreboard different to Test, one-day and Twenty20 cricket, the end result is largely the same - the team with the most runs wins.
Manchester Originals posted 6-135 from their 100 balls, largely thanks to 42 from South African opener Lizelle Lee, before her countrywoman van Niekerk's unbeaten 56 led the visitors to the 136-run target with five wickets to spare.
"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 ... 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," van Niekerk said.
The white-ball contest consists of 100 balls per innings with a change of ends after every 10 deliveries.
Bowlers can deliver either five or 10 consecutive balls, with each bowler allowed a maximum of 20 deliveries per games.
Eight men's and women's teams located in major cities across England and Wales with 15-strong squads including a maximum of three overseas players.