Mixed fortunes for Brave sides in dramatic finals

By Connor Steel / Photograph by BBC Sport

SATURDAY saw the climax of the inaugural Hundred competition with a double header of finals played at Lords in overcast (but thankfully not rainy) conditions, with Southern Brave participating in both games of men’s and women’s cricket.

But sadly they were not able to complete the double as mixed fortunes hit the Southampton-based Franchise outfit, with the men winning their final against Birmingham Phoenix with a complete all-round performance while the women fell short as they lost to Oval Invincibles after their batting order simply collapsed in style.

Women: Oval Invincibles (121-6) beat Southern Brave (73 all out) by 48 runs

Electing to bowl first in front of a record crowd of 17,000, Brave made a dream start as captain Anya Shrubsole took the wicket of Georgia Adams for four runs to leave the Invincibles on 5-1 from their opening 11 runs. But sadly this dismissal only brought Fran Wilson to the crease alongside Dane Van Niekerk, who put together a 56-run partnership of 50 balls mostly made of singles; although there was six boundaries but no sixes in this spell. This left Oval Invincibles on 61-1 with 40 deliveries to play and were looking in a good position to build an above-par score on a slow outfield following the recent men’s test match last weekend.

However Brave never gave up with accurate bowling and pegged the Invincibles to 64-3, taking two wickets in the space of five balls to put them back into the game. Wilson was caught behind a fine spin delivery from Amanda-Jade Wellington, while Van Niekerk was caught off the bowling of Lauren Bell on the 66th ball of the innings. But these two wickets didn’t seem to change too much as Marizanne Kapp and 17-year-old Alice Capsey came together, putting together a quick partnership of 34 runs off 21 deliveries to push their side towards the 100 mark.

Brave were again celebrating as they took the wicket of Capsey with her stumps splattered, making it 98-4 with t13 balls remaining. Kapp then took the mantle for another six balls before she was caught off the bowling of Fi Morris making it 114-5 with seven balls remaining. These last deliveries were accurate and only yielded another seven runs alongside the wicket of Mady Villiers off the final ball, the batter holing out a shot into third man as she attempted a six. This brought the Invincibles to a final total of 121-6 off their allocated innings, a competitive target but with no sixes as commentators believed that Brave could win this game easily.

These words acted as a curse as Kapp simply destroyed the top order of the Brave batting, taking all three of Danni Wyatt, Gaby Lewi,s and Sophia Dunkley for ducks within 10 balls to leave the Invincibles stunned at their early success. This left Brave on 2-3, with the only runs coming from wide deliveries. And it did get worse as the bowlers continued to dominate. Maia Bouchier was soon run out for seven to leave the favourites on 11-4, while another wicket saw Van Niekerk dismiss Wellington for a duck off the 30th delivery, leaving a shellshocked crowd, commentators, and viewers. This left Brave stranded on 11 for five and needing 111 more to win from their remaining 70 balls.

But a confident bowling unit were inspired and Alice Capsey took the wicket of Shrubsole six balls later, leaving the score on 14-6 and the game almost over as a contest. This seemed to change the tempo as Brave started to show some resistantance led by Stephanie Taylor, who scored 18 runs before being stumped off the bowling of Van Niekerk to put the batting side on 29-7. However fears of recording a lowest ever Hundred total were calmed by a 33-run partnership between Fi Morris and Tara Norris off 28 balls – which was simply not enough of an increase to raise hopes of a sudden Brave victory.

Both batters were dismissed in straight deliveries as Norris was bowled by Capsey for 11 with 15 balls left, before her strike partner was run out the next ball with her 23-run contribution the highest for Brave in this women’s final. Kapp then sealed the trophy for the Invincibles with two balls left as she took her fourth wicket for just nine balls, splattering Lauren Bell’s stumps with a brilliant delivery as Southern Brave were all out for 73, were heavily beaten by 48 runs on the big game occasion.

The women’s final was entertaining and a fine example of this form of cricket that is often overlooked, with nearly 200 runs scored and 16 wickets falling in 198 balls. There were no sixes across both innings, but it signalled how important partnerships can be in cricket with Brave not allowed to form any meaningful contributions. This made the difference and fans were willing to clap the players off to the podium to pick up medals, before the Invincibles lifted the Women’s Hundred Trophy.

Men: Southern Brave (168-5) beat Birmingham Phoenix (136-5) by thirty-two runs

As crowds increased for the men’s final to over 24,000 spectators, Birmingham Phoenix decided to bowl first with grey overhead conditions and the threat of dew on the pitch. However this moisture helped the outfield gain speed as Brave hit 15 off eleven balls including a cheeky shot for six by Quinton de Kock to take him to seven runs. The South African batsman tried a similar move on the next delivery but only succeeded in finding the hands of Dillon Pennington with Adam Milne taking his first wicket.

Fresh from Friday evening’s display, James Vince joined Paul Stirling at the crease but only paid a supporting role before he was bowled by Imran Tahir for just four to leave Brave on 35-2 with a third of the innings to play. But Phoenix hadn’t reckoned for a masterclass from Stirling, who added another 38 runs to his score before falling for 61 runs when the score was 85-3. The Irishman’s six maximums and two boundaries racked up quick runs, finishing with a strike rate of 169.4 per ball before Benny Howell had him caught behind.

But more solid work between Alex Davis and Tim David took Brave over the 100 run mark before the latter was caught off the bowling of Liam Livingstone. This only brought Ross Whitely to the crease, who combined with Davis with another strong partnership of 43 off twenty one balls; with Davis becoming the second victim of Milne with the score on 145-5 with nine balls later. This was when Whitely let rip at the death, adding 16 runs to drag Brave to 168-5 from their innings.

The English batsman added 44 runs including four sixes and four fours, with Brave hitting 14 maximums and 20 boundaries overall. This was despite good bowling from the Phoenix who didn’t concede any wides or no balls, while Milne had taken two wickets and only conceded eight off his allocated 20 deliveries.

Chasing a high 169 to win the final, Phoenix didn’t start well as they lost their first wicket after just two balls. George Garton did the damage as his ball caused a shot to be held by Tim David, who to his credit performed a bit of magic and David Bedingham was unlucky to be out like that. Somerset bowler Craig Overton joined in the fun as he took the wicket of Will Smeed after a fine run of dot balls, leaving the batting side on 14-2 off 19.

This brought Livingstone and Moeen Ali together at the crease, with a partnership of 56 off just 26 balls as the England spinning club began to turn the tide in Phoenix’s favour. It was Livingstone who simply dominated this partnership with four sixes and fours in his eight boundaries, taking him to 44 off 18 balls and looking to continue match-winning form in this tournament. But a moment of magic stopped the batsman in his tracks as he was sent back to the pavilion with 99 required off 55 balls.

A ball from the fast bowler was hacked away as Tim David ran off the boundary to attempt a stunning catch. But despite the shot falling just short, the fielder performed a simply stunning direct hit from 25 yards out to run out Livingstone at the striker’s end to huge celebrations and silence amongst the Phoenix contingent. It proved to completely change the game in favour to Brave, who took their fourth wicket nine balls later with the score on 83 runs as Tymal Mills dismissed Miles Hammond for three runs as the scoring rate began to lag.

Brave got their fifth and final Phoenix as they removed dangerman Ali as he attempted to spearhead his side’s innings. On 36 not out including three sixes, he tried to hit an ambitious shot over cover point, that landed into the grateful hands of Craig Overton. This gave Jake Linlott his only wicket of the innings, but the bowler again contributed with accurate deliveries that stemmed the runs and eventually saw Brave home.

Although both wicketkeeper Chris Benjamin (23*) and Benny Howell (20*) remained unbeaten at the end of the Phoenix innings, they simply didn’t score quickly enough to really put Brave under any real pressure. The pair only scored 39 off 34 balls, which included just five boundaries and one six, with the others coming from singles down the ground. This and falling wickets at regular intervals against great Brave fielding and bowling saw the Phoenix fall a huge 32 runs behind, which sealed Southern Brave’s position as the Hundred champions and made it seven wins in a row after losing their first two matches (with one no result).

These finals mean the inaugural Hundred tournament has finished for 2021 and it can be classed as an overwhelming success despite early criticism. Huge crowds have been in attendance at all games and records have been broken in terms of women’s games, while younger audiences have been enjoying the action during the summer holidays. With all this in mind it appears that the Hundred will become a key part of future cricket seasons; 2022 will see Southern Brave replicate this year’s successes despite the mixed fortunes for them at the Home of Cricket.