The Hundred: Oval Invincibles fight back to beat Birmingham Phoenix to reach final

Oval Invincibles 114-7 (100 balls) Kapp 37 (37), Capsey 26 (20); Gordon 2-22
Birmingham Phoenix 94 all out (94 balls) A Jones 35; Farrant 4-10
Invincibles win by 20 runs

Oval Invincibles fought back from the brink in stunning style to reach the inaugural women’s Hundred final with a 20-run win over Birmingham Phoenix in the eliminator.

Chasing 115, the Phoenix were cruising at 66-2 before the Invincibles, on their home ground, turned the game on its head through the brilliance of Tash Farrant and captain Dane van Niekerk.

Farrant, now the tournament’s leading wicket-taker, produced a spectacular diving catch to dismiss Erin Burns for 23 and the Oval crowd of more than 12,000 had hardly settled when, crucially, she had Phoenix skipper Amy Jones for 35 next ball.

The Phoenix still only needed 49 from 49 balls but the pumped-up Invincibles surged to victory by taking another six wickets to bowl the visitors out for 94.

Van Niekerk, who remained the perfect, unflappable leader throughout, took a brilliant reaction catch off her own bowling.

Her side will play Southern Brave in the final on Saturday, a match which starts at 15:00 BST and will be shown live on BBC Two.

Superb Farrant swings game in magical two minutes

A “diving Superman effort” was how England skipper Heather Knight described Farrant’s thrilling catch which drew gasps from this crowd.

Burns, who had looked in control alongside Jones, hit the ball in the air but Farrant flew to her left to grasp the ball while almost horizontal to the ground.

“I don’t really know what happened,” Farrant said. “I just sort of plucked it from the air.”

Then, back to the day job of bowling, she removed Jones with a clever slower ball. Farrant and her Invincibles team-mates roared in delight while the crowd cheered. Jones covered her face with her hand. She knew it was a crucial moment.

Even then Farrant – born in Greece and raised in Italy and Singapore – was not done.

She took three more wickets to wrap the game up and finished with remarkable figures of four wickets for just 10 runs from 19 balls.

Farrant had her England contract terminated in 2019 and afterwards worked in a school but this performance tops a year in which she has returned to the international fold.

“She looks emotional,” Knight said at the finish. “I am proud of what she has done.”

Van Niekerk = Captain Fantastic

But we cannot forget the excellence of Van Niekerk.

Once again she proved herself to be a world-class player but also, perhaps more importantly, a fine leader.

After 45 balls, with the game slipping away, she called for the strategic timeout and, after consulting with the Invincibles coaches, gave what looked like a passionate, stern team-talk. Six balls later the game was in her side’s grasp.

“Dane said ‘do not leave anything out on this pitch. Go out with a fight’,” Farrant said.

“Her super strength his how passionate she is about the game. As a captain you know she really cares about this team.”

Manchester Originals men’s captain Carlos Brathwaite praised her match-defining captaincy and passion while working as a pundit on BBC TV.

“Van Niekerk is the Virat Kohli of the women’s game,” he said, referencing India men’s superstar captain. “Look at the celebration [for her wicket]! I love the passion.”

Did nerves get to Phoenix?

Phoenix, who won their last three group games to secure an unlikely eliminator place, will have felt they had this game won on a number of occasions.

The Invincibles needed a partnership of 54 from Marizanne Kapp and 17-year-old Alice Capsey just to get to their below-par score.

With Burns and, in particular, Jones at the crease it looked like they would win easily but they came up short.

England World Cup winner Alex Hartley suggested the big crowd and big stage may have been to blame.

“Domestically we haven’t played in situations like that in front of thousands of people on the BBC,” Hartley said.

“It is a huge deal. The nerves have got the better of the girls today.”

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