Brave finish Hundred groups with victory

By Connor Steel / Photograph from BBC Sport

IN THEIR final group game of the Hundred at the Ageas Bowl, both the men’s and women’s sides of Southern Brave were victorious against the respective Oval Invincibles counterparts in a thrilling Monday afternoon of cricket in Southampton with more than 2,000 supporters in attendance.

The victories not only secures a 100 percent win rate (eight out of eight) at the Hampshire stadium base for Southern Brave, but also continued brilliant form of late that has seen both sides reach the final stages of the inaugural tournament in the domestic summer season.

Women: Southern Brave (115-3) beat Oval Invincibles (85 all out) by 30 runs

Oval Invincibles elected to bowl after winning the toss, which was a decision that seemed to be working in the early stages as Brave struggled to make a quick opening on a slow outfield at the Ageas Bowl. Labouring to 18 runs off 23 balls, things only got worse for the home side as Gaby Lewis was caught off the bowling of Tash Farrant leaving Brave on 18-1 with a quarter of allocated deliveries played.

Probing Invincibles’ bowling continued to limit the run-rate of Brave’s attacking openers, reaping yet another reward as 16-year-old bowler Alice Capsey dismissed Danni Wyatt for 20 runs. This second wicket left the home side on 38-2 with 45 balls played as the visitors thought they had an advantage. But sadly for them, it seemed the dismissal sparked Brave into life with an amazing recovery.

Over the next f44 balls the home side put a third wicket stand of 75 runs led by the English international Sophie Dunkley, who made 58 unbeaten runs off 39 deliveries. In this innings the form batsmen struck seven fours and one six to finish with a strike rate of 148.00 per ball to take Brave over the 100-run mark. She was accompanied by the solid Stafanie Taylor who hit 23 runs, although in a slower and unspectacular display in comparison with her strike partner.

On the second-to-last ball however, the West Indian was dismissed with the score on 113-2; a fine ball by Tash Farrant catching the edge and was well caught at deep square leg by Jo Gardner. The final ball saw Maia Bouchier scarper for two after a drive down the left, meaning that Brave had an overall total of 115-3 off their allocated 100-ball innings. Commentators coving the match on Sky Sports suggested this score was slightly under-par with some predicting an Invincibles win after limiting the home side to a manageable chasing target.

Oval Invincibles got off to a slightly quicker start than Brave, hitting 21 off 16 balls before two wickets checked the momentum. Tara Norris dismissed Georgia Adams for eight runs and Fran Wilson was quickly sent back to the dressing rooms after being stumped off the bowling of Amanda-Jane Wellington for two, ending a nine-ball spell that only yielded three runs, leaving the away side 26-2 with over a quarter of deliveries played.

These two wickets brought Dane Van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp together at the crease, with the pair creating a steady 38- run partnership to leave the Invincibles on 64-2 with 37 balls left and the game was arguably in their favour. Six balls later and the match was in a different position with just two runs added, but the same number of wickets ultimately falling in this period. Kapp was dismissed for 26 runs off the bowling of Wellington for her second wickets, with Lauren Ball taking a catch off her own bowling to remove Mady Villiers for a single as the Invincibles needing exactly 50 runs from the last 30 balls.

After a period of 13 runs off 10 balls left them on 79-4, the Invincibles tried to increase the scoring rate; but instead this had the opposite reaction as they suffered a collapse that saw them lose their final six wickets for just as many runs. Dangerous teenager Alice Capsey and Van Niekerk were dismissed in successive balls, before Jo Gardner was out three balls later as Wellington took her fourth wicket for just 12 runs from her allocated 20 balls. This left the Invincibles on 80-7 with 15 balls left, needing 36 runs to win.

Sadly for the visitors, Bell picked up where Wellington left off with two wickerts again in successive deliveries as the bowler took three for 22, dismissing Sarah Bryce and Farrant for ducks to add to her earlier removal of Villiers. England World Cup hero Anya Shrubsole then finished off the job for Brave as she removed Shabnim Ismail for five, ending the innings on 85 with six balls lefts. It confirmed a victory of 30 runs on the afternoon and showed that spin could work on this slow pitch at the Ageas Bowl.

Although the result didn’t matter for Brave, the performance will give them confidence going into the Hundred final on Saturday afternoon at Lords (3pm start) with opponents to be decided on Friday (August 20). It also means that the women’s side have won seven out of eight group games in a record that won’t be beaten by either male or female sides this year, including four straight wins at the home of Hampshire Cricket.

Men: Southern Brave (135-4) beat Oval Invincibles (134-7) by six wickets

After being inserted by Brave, the Invincibles made a really quick start by hitting 46 runs off just 16 balls, which was led by Will Jack’s 39 that included five fours and three sixes. But as in the women’s encounter earlier in the day, one wicket brought two as George Garton dismissed Jacks before sending Colin Ingram away for a golden duck to leave the score on 46-2.

And when Jason Roy saw his stumps splattered by a Danny Briggs delivery for six runs just minutes after playing a supporting role in Jacks’ innings, the match was finely in the balance with the away side on 56-3 with a quarter of balls delivered. But Brave soon took control of the first innings as their bowlers were rewarded for patience as another three wickets fell for just 24 runs, with perhaps the most damaging aspect being this period lasted 31 balls as the run rate slowed dramatically.

The damage was mostly done by Jake Linlott (3-14) as he removed English ODI international Sam Billings for 12 and saw Laurie Evans edge into the gloves of Quinton de Kock 17 balls later; only 12 runs were added between the two dismissals. The mini-collapse also saw Chris Jordan take the wicket of Sunil Narine for 14 runs, leaving the Invincibles on 79-6 and in danger of not playing out all 100 deliveries.

Although Tom Curran was dismissed for just five runs, the Invincibles did stage a good recovery and finished on 134-7 off their innings. This was mostly down to the efforts of Alex Blake who scored 44 unbeaten off just 28 deliveries, with his attacking innings seeing two fours and three sixes. The middle order batsman was supported by the stubborn Saqib Mahmood, who hit seven off nine balls to help set up an unbeaten partnership of 35 runs when needed.

Chasing 135 to seal victory and guarantee progress to the next stage, Brave didn’t get off to the best start as they lost Quinton de Kock and Paul Stirling for a combined total of 14 runs in just 11 balls. It was two English bowlers who did the damage as Reece Topley removed the South African, while the Irishman was removed from the crease after being caught off Tom Curran’s bowling for just two. It brought captain James Vince into the middle and he started well, but was ultimately run out for 13 after risking a quick single on the leg side and finding himself out of his crease.

George Garton picked up the mantle of the run chase and scored 23 runs within a partnership of 36 with Alex Davis off 25 balls, which included two sixes as the run chase steadily increased when the Brave innings passed the half way mark. However more great fielding and a direct hit from Laurie Evans saw Garton run out on his 17th ball, leaving the home side on 68-4 off 53 deliveries and the winner-takes-all match finely in the balance as a strategy timeout was called.

New Zealander Colin De Grandhomme then joined Davis at the crease, which proved to be a turning point in the match. Invincibles’ fielders were unlucky not to dislodge a batman on many occasions as the Brave pair succeeded in collected quickly run singles against some extremely probing deliveries, which then provided a platform to counter-attack the visiting bowlers with the home crowd behind them.

Davis hit three balls for four runs as the scoring rate increased, whilst his New Zealand-born partner smashed two sixes to take Brave over the 100-run mark with 18 balls left and 30 runs required. Reaching this landmark seemed to panic the Invincibles as they began to concede overthrows whilst trying to run the batsmen out and on one occasion a harmless dot ball led to three runs due to a mis-field. But the real decisive point came with 15 runs needed off 10 balls as de Grandhomme hit Mahood for a single over the top.

Now only was there a mis-field, the ball narrowly missed the stumps at the bowlers end and ran away down the leg-side, meaning that Brave were able to pick up three further runs that could have been avoided. The umpire then deemed the bowler had overstepped and awarded a no-ball, adding two more runs and a free hit with the home side now needing just nine off 10 balls to reach the knockout stages.

And this was delivered five deliveries later after two dot balls and three quickly run singles to leave just six required. But with umpires worrying about the 9.47pm cut off point for action, Alex Davis smashed Mahmood’s final ball of the game for a maximum and saw Brave over the line with five balls left to send the home side into celebration. It completed an assured and unbeaten 67 run partnership off just 42 balls with de Grandhomme, with the two joining together to celebrate a tough match that genuinely may have gone differently on another day.

This win means that Brave finished their group stages with 11 points and five wins from eight, including four straight victories at the Ageas Bowl. However two defeats and a weather related result means that the men have finished second in the group behind Birmingham Phoenix, who easily beat Northern Superchargers by 8 wickets on Tuesday evening.

Brave will now travel to the Oval for an eliminator / semi final match against Trent Rockets on Friday evening, with a 6.30pm start at the home of Surrey cricket. The winners will then travel across to London to participate in the Hundred Final on Saturday afternoon, with a start time of 6.30pm.

It has also been confirmed that both women and men finals will be shown live on BBC Two from 2.30pm, with coverage lasting until 10pm with trophy presentations also part of the action. Isa Guha is schooled to be the presenter for both matches with contributions from Michael Vaughan and Jimmy Anderson; in what promises to be a fine display of cricket to end a tournament of 64 matches and 13,000 balls delivered overall.