All about Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - Records made, record books rewritten
The last two or three days have been a whirlwind. Not literally though, but I'll be lying if I say that the Aussie men's cricket team and the South African women's cricket team (twice) have not been blown away by some out-of-the-world displays by their rivals. Because they definitely have been, and so have all the viewers who watched the spirited performances of both the English cricket teams (men and women) and the New Zealand women's cricket team, each on separate occasions.
It all began almost a week ago, as we saw the Kiwi women's twin demolition of Ireland (490 team runs in one innings, 232 individual runs for Amelia Kerr in another), and then there was the proverbial calm-before-the-storm which lasted half a week, and suddenly, on Tuesday we saw how the English men managed to humble their Australian counterparts. In the process, they scaled new heights to set up a men's ODI record total of 481 for the loss of six wickets, with the Kiwi women's record from earlier this week still intact by just nine runs as the highest ever total in ODIs, men's and women's combined.
Less than 24 hours after this happened, the New Zealand women picked up where they had left off in Ireland last week. The White Ferns blasted their way to a record women's T20 total of 216 for one, thanks mainly to Suzie Bates' blitzkrieg knock of 124 not out from just 66 balls. The Protean women largely had a lacklustre bowling attack, and Bates and compatriot Sophie Devine made full use of the opportunity at hand. The partnership went on until Devine sent a loose shot straight into Marizanne Kapp's hands while at 73 off just 48 balls. By then, the score was 182.
Bates, on the other hand, made sure that she committed no errors. She struck 16 fours and 3 sixes through the length of her innings. Had she not been deprived of the strike in the final over, she would surely have overhauled Aussie stalwart Meg Lanning's T20-highest innings of 126. Having already gone past Charlotte Edwards' record for the most career runs in women's T20Is, she had to settle for postponing the rewriting of another individual record, to another day and occasion.
In reply, South Africa could muster only 150 runs, with middle order batswoman and team captain van Niekerk (58 from 44) top-scoring for them. All the others failed as wickets fell at regular intervals.
Recent innings, including the ones spoken about just now, have made the world sit up and take note of the New Zealanders' batting prowess, but with the English men's team dominating the Aussies, the women were not to be left far behind. In a matter of hours after watching Bates inspire the Kiwis to an innings-record, it was now their turn, with Tammy Beaumont and her team-mates marching out to the middle to obliterate that mark from the annals.
By the end of 20 overs, after winning the toss against the same hapless South African opposition that Bates and Devine played against, England had amassed an extraordinary 250 for 3, their efforts mainly powered by a 47-ball century from Beaumont - her third for England in as many innings after her ODI-series-sealing knocks last week. With five overs still to play, she had the individual record at her mercy as well, until she miscued a return catch to Stacy Lackey to depart for 116 from 52. She struck an impressive 18 fours and 4 sixes.
But that was no relief to South Africa, as on top of Beaumont's innings came Danielle Wyatt with a high-octane supporting role with 56 from 36 balls in an opening stand of 147 in 13.1 overs. The attack at the fag end of the innings was led by Natalie Sciver (33 from 15) and Katherine Brunt (42 not out from 16), as the duo applied the finishing touches to the record-breaking innings with a murderous series of blows.
Beaumont's ferocity in the arc from square leg to long-on was a sight to behold. Those shots of hers, coupled with Wyatt's drives kept the scorekeeper very busy. There were even a few finesse shots at times, but it was scarcely required as the innings progressed and South Africa's morale suffered.
Dane van Niekerk, the sole standout performer for the South Africans against the Kiwis, continued to shine as she battled her way to a defiant fifty, her second on the same day. She finished with 72 off 51, as the team ended their innings at 129 for 6. On a pitch where almost every other bowler had gone for runs, English bowler Anya Shrubsole showed the girls how it's done, by ending the game conceding just eight runs across her four overs.
We can only imagine how brutal and soul-destroying it could have been for South Africa - having conceded 466 runs in the space of 40 overs across two games. Come to think of it, it might have been a bit unfair for the series to be held the way it was - making the same team play twice on the same day. The only relief to the Protean women will be the fact that each of New Zealand and England will face the same fate in the coming days, and so they must be ready to return the "favours". At the same time, while we laud the efforts of the likes of Bates and Beaumont, a word must also go to van Niekerk's twin fifties.