Hello Taunton.

News: England have won the toss and are bowling. What’s more, a thrillingly left-field possibility lurches towards us: Wong and Bell *could well open up*. Might argue that neither are quite ready for it, but a weakened South Africa side, cloudy skies and the Shrubsole-and-Brunty-sized hole in the universe makes this a real contender. Really hope Knight/Keightley come over all un-Englishly Baztastic, here.

It looks a seamer’s dream. Major cloud cover with occasional bright spells. Cool. Pitch looks greenish. people, I reckon I might be a threat out there. (Ancient and crocked, but right-arm medium-formerly-quick, since you ask). Quick bowlers will be able to bowl spells and expect some joy. Will suit the electrifying Bell and Wong combo, as well as the winkle-merchants Cross and Sciver. I tweeted earlier that South Africa might be 120 all out and it does feel possible.

10.48. Sudden gloom descendeth. Borderline.

In other news. Who wrote the four hour ECB(?) Mission Against Everything Nasty statement? (The one they read out before matches). Weird and plainly counter-productively endless. I’m a decent, strongish anti-racist woke leftie – so support! – but surely there’s a better way – one that doesn’t smack so heavily of every box being ticked.

OK. Long week ahead. Sit back. Players may well walk into rain… or straight off.

This is going to be so-o tough, for South Africa. Maybe for everybody. Cool. Fresh breeze. Lots of greenness and greyness… and a little glamourous redness: a young woman who seems likely to belt out the anthem?

The girl dun gud. Longish versions – certainly of the South African job. Players stood about for *some time*, however.

Love Kate Cross and respect her. But bit cowardly to open with her… & Sciver next? Why not go, go, go, with Bell and Wong? Even if this works it’s a missed opportunity.

Some bounce. Wolvaardt clips to midwicket for two. The photographers – four of them, now, six feet in front of me but outside – have coats on.

Bell will bowl from the Trescothick End. So right in front of me. Starts with a ver-ry slow slower ball. Warms to her task. One notable in-swinger and an lb shout at Wolvaardt. But maybe not a full tilt? South Africa untroubled at 4 for 0 after 2.

Cross is a lovely, fluent athlete. She may be bowling as quickly as her partner, here. Bounce and carry but arguably ‘pretty’ rather than threatening. Dare she go fuller? May need to. Do rate her but think she’s a bowler of excellent, longish spells to force errors rather than killer balls. (None of this is a criticism; just maybe should have bowled later, for me). No dramas. It’s brightened.

Bell does have an in-swinger – of almost Shrubsolian proportions. Seeing it now. An *optimistic* appeal. No.

Cross sorts one. She’s looking good… and going full… and straight… and Steyn watches as it hits off-stick. Rather calamitous, for the batter but a peach, nevertheless. Steyn made 8. On reflection, one of few balls that would actually have hit the stumps – not that this is the only consideration for an opening bowler.

Word may have got back to Bell, who is bowling boldly full, now. It’s costing her a run or two but Knight will live with that, I suspect. 20 for 1 after 6. The 52 kids who were sat on top of me on the train from Temple Meads are giving it some. Teacher needs to tell ’em it’s a long day. 11.30 and it’s bright – and crucially a wall of solid, summertastic blue to our left. (Weather coming from there).

Bell is ver-ry tall and slim. Run-up and general flow looks bit coached, perhaps, as though she’s *really looking* for discipline. Wouldn’t mind a bit of rawness and pace, myself, while she has it.

Cross has two slips – Knight and Ecclestone, interestingly – with Sciver at gully. Left-hander Goodall has a wildish swish at a wide one. OO-oohhs, but no. Wonderfully, the weather looks set… for a while, at least.

Wong replaces Bell, who’s done okay but might have wanted more stuff to happen. Whatever, those two really may be The Future… and they both have time. Issy W gets through her first over in the whites of Ingerland neatly enough: got a couple right up there. Cross continues from the River End.

Those kids – bless ’em – are loving it… but maybe not, understandably the it that is the *actual game*. The shouting is defiantly off-kilter, at about 78 degrees to what’s happening – you know – out there. It’s great but they’re gonna be knackered by lunch.

Wong is bowling 70-plus. Legitimate bouncer. Then oooff. She bowls Wolvaardt – arguably South Africa’s key bat. Full and straight, didn’t appear do do a huge amount but clattered into the off-stump. Big Moment for Wong and for the game – she looks suitably pumped. 38 for 2, as the skipper Luus joins Goodall. Sciver is in for Cross. Nice, floaty, mixed-up over.

Wong has three slips and a gully as she comes at Goodall again. No dramas and we have drinks, in what look to be improving batting conditions. The flannels may be flapping but they look blindingly white.

Back at it with Sciver, who is swinging it (away) and plopping it around that danger zone consistently, as per. Goodall coping. Say hello to the three Chance to Shine guys, behind me. They’ve sorted access for a whole bunch of schools, this week, as well as delivering sessions all over. (I’ve worked for them for 12 years, so there may be a Declaration of Interest coming. Or I might just ask you bung them a wedge when you pop your clogs. Cricket. Charity. They do good work).

Sciver bowls another full, slightly swingy leg-break. Pins Goodall. In what must surely be the first review in Eng women’s Test Cricket history, we ‘go upstairs’. Out! Kinda sweeeet to see the players so excited to go through the review process. Fabulous delivery and just reward. Lizelle Lee marches in with South Africa in some strife. 44 for 3 as Sciver takes her cap.

Circling back to wonder whether it was always the England Plan to play Wong and Bell(?) Freya Davies maybe a little unfortunate to miss out but them young speedsters…

Bell has returned to give Wong a rest. She bowls a sensational, full in-swinger to biff the front pad of Lee – on nought. Magic Moment for Bell as the review invites, no instructs the batter to walk. 45 for 4 and I may start looking for my SA 120 all out tweet, from 9am…

Except the god-fearing goddess herself – sorry that’s maybe too offensive for some tastes – has entered the fray. Marizanne Kapp is stridently christian (whatever that means) and (more relevantly to me, and to the match) an absolute worldie of a player. Great bowler, good bat, phenomenal temperament. She has work to do.

We haven’t seen Ecclestone, yet – why would we? She appears to be having an absolute ball with her colleagues in the slips: jolly japesville, with lots of bantz and shoulder-slaps as they change ends. Team humour generally looks good. 50-up, for 4, in Bell’s seventh over.

Sciver beats Kapp all ends up, with one that bounces, off a length. No nick. The kids are still screaming. Bell.

She bowls a weirdly timid(?) bouncer, which Luus can easily steer down and away from the shortish square leg, then a wide one which Kapp can guide away for her first runs – a boundary behind point. That particular delivery was 69 mph: the next is 61. Bell has 19 for 1 off 7 overs, at this juncture. The replays of her booming in-swinger to dismiss Lee – up on tv in the Media Centre – are being edited into an ECB equality campaign as we speak. Magic.

So. Coupla overs from Ecclestone, as we approach lunch? Sounds about right. Knight concurs.

Slip, silly point and foreward short leg. Flighting full. Kapp impressively obdurate. 67 for 4 after 24 and time for more Wong. She’s changed ends – now in from the river. Three slips and a gully. Looks strong and quick now she’s bowling straight at me. Wong has 1 for 12 from her 5 overs. Feels important that both she and Bell ‘notched’ on the first morning.

12.51. More cloud. More Ecclestone. Luus looking organised on 21, now. Quiet over.

Kapp thrashes Wong through the covers for four – was wide. Then again; perhaps the first committed attacking shots of the innings. But then Wong draws an edge which flies low and safe, through the cordon. A wicket now and England are utterly dominant. Knight has the freedom to go scalp-chasing, so notably attacking field, for Ecclestone.

Wong will see us through to lunch. Luus is fortunate – gets a thick edge at catchable height through the slips. Between second and third, ‘travelling’; nobody can lay a mitt on it. Delicious and decently-disguised slower ball from England’s new quick is patted down. 83 for 4. I smell food.

If you’re watching on telly, I’m just about to walk onto the Media Centre balcony-thing. Resplendent in blue/patterned shirt. Shades. Tell me mum.

I go outside a) for some air and b) to watch Bell, more side-on. Kapp slaps her four but it’s another decent over. Then Cross. The Kate Cross Action is one of my fave watches. Interestingly (whatever the speed-gun may say) she seems quick – possibly even hurrying the batters a tad more than Bell. And today she is getting bounce and carry.

The partnership between Luus and Kapp feels pivotal – skipper and best player? Not much to come? So the first few overs after lunch could be BIG.

THEY ARE. Cross bowls another beauty with a touch of away-swing and finds the edge. The ball flies sharply to probably the only player on the park (with all due respect) who might catch it. Sciver* drops to her left and grabs: it’s an absolute stunner – barely above ground, at full extent. Luus is walking and wondering how the hell…

*Sciver is one of those players who just has something. Doesn’t always look as quick or agile as (saaay) Dani Wyatt… but she just has that special gift for the extraordinary: does it all the bloody time!

The highlight package coming along nicely. Wonderball from Bell and worldie-of-a-catch from Sciver. Bosch has joined Kapp so cue the jokes about bringing something. Sunshine making me squint, suddenly. Wouldn’t have believed, when I left Bristol at 8ish, that we were set for a day sans interruptions but looks that way now. (*Fatal).

Cross continues. truly impressive and watchable spell. Looks quickish and looks to be hitting pitch/bat/pad hard. Working South Africa over in a way I hadn’t expected. (Expected skill and influence-over-time: this is punchier and more dynamic than that – a whole new Dimension of Cross. Love it).

I’m really enjoying this. As always, the crowd is at about 22% of where these women deserve it to be but hoping everyone from those bug-eyed kids to the purists with their binocs’ are, too. (Of course they are. The day has brightened, there’s been plenty Proper Cricket… and some outstanding moments).

Just now Kapp is starting to counter, with a mix of classic defence and power hitting: just pulled Cross for four to go to 28. Looks good – but then that’s what she does. Her role c.r.i.t.i.c.a.l, here.

My first live look at Davidson-Richards. Bosch boshes her square, second ball, but she’s slapping it in there a wee bit quicker than I expected. Sturdy, rather than athletic run-up but then slings over that bowling arm hard. Does okay. But there are signs that both Bosch and Kapp are looking to score, as opposed to just surviving this. Four more, for Kapp, off Cross, run rate over 3 and we are at 123 for 5 after 39 overs.

Three slips, still, for Davison-Richards. A leg-cutter nearly draws the edge. Lazy shot, in truth, from Kapp. 67/68 mph, from the bowler – up with Sciver, who follows her, from the River End.

Both batters content to drive with some intent: Bosch looking a genuine bat, having gone to a confident 15, from 24 balls. When Richards offers a short one, she carts it with some arrogance over midwicket, for four. Decent comeback: the bowler does her well and truly, outside off. No contact.

Drinks, at 14.45. South Africa are fighting. The Kapp/Bosch partnership is well past fifty. Davidson-Richards has gone at five an over during her four over spell and Sciver is *really trying everything, from party-trick-style slow balls to booming pitch-pounders. It’s good, competitive cricket. Ecclestone was air-wheeling before drinks and now she’s on. 148 for 5, South Africa, with Kapp on 47 and Bosch on 29.

Kapp promptly slaps Ecclestone for four, to go to a very competent 51. It’s her second Test 50… because Marizanne Kapp… THE Marizanne Kapp… has played two Test Matches (according to the telly above my left shoulder. What a complete nonsense that is!)

Ecclestone appeals but it feels like a routine rather than a nailed-on shout. Hit the bat, so review lost, on this occasion. Then Sciver beats Kapp and (with Jones up) the bails are off. Not out. Nice-but-quietish phase of the game. Test-cricketty. Lovely.

No Charlie Dean, so Ecclestone wheeling solo. Sciver can bowl spells no problem but wondering if we might see Wong again, soon. Soft ball, yeh, but crank it up for three overs, maybe? Important and possibly match-defining to break this pair up. Bosch has 30, Kapp 51.

Bell evidently has scraped a knee – plaster just brought on. Was going to speculate about how good an athlete she is/isn’t… but if she’s in a little discomfort then this might not be wise(or fair). In any case – breaking…

Ecclestone sends down a loopy floaty one (well, everything’s relative) which Bosch slightly inexplicably tonks to point. The ball had cramped her, possibly because earlier in the over she had clattered a cut to the boundary: now she simply lifts it to Lamb. Gone for 30. 163 for 6 and here comes Wong.

Kapp clatters her immediately towards backward square, where Bell goes down in weekly instalments to save. She looks uncomfortable getting up. Brave stop, but unless she really is injured, does nothing to dissuade me from the view that Bell is not, weirdly, perhaps, a great, natural athlete. (This may not matter: she may become a great fast bowler in any case. But it’s part of my description. Fair enough?)

Wong bounces Kapp, hard but the batter cuffs it through third man for four. Looked a controlled stroke. Then the bowler does her incredislow thing, but misses length, and Kapp bunts the full-toss past her for four more. (The bowler got a hand on it, and might have done better). 180 for 6, after 55 overs. De Klerk has joined Kapp.

Interestingly, Wong is swapped for Cross, at the River End: de Klerk facing. Fair play, the new batter push-drives her ver-ry straight, for four… but then has a swish… and Kapp *has words*.

Two close catchers plus a slip, as de Klerk now faces Ecclestone. The bowler going through her tricks. Revs/flight/spearing it. Fascinating and mildly tense over but the batter survives. Then more Cross: not clear why Wong was withdrawn so swiftly – suspected something strategic but hoping no injury. (Wong remains on the field).

Lovely mini-contest between Ecclestone and de Klerk. The spinner buzzing through her over, offering multifarious teases; the batter holding firm. 192 for 6, at tea.

Breeze still a-blowing, sky still bright. We go again. Ecclestone is followed by Davidson-Richards, who has changed ends. Kapp, now on 86, looks set for a ton. It’s been chanceless.

Few minutes later. Davidson still heartily slapping them in there – her natural length a tad short. Nothing much happening. Then de Klerk flirts at a wide one and feathers it behind. Kapp’s manifestly unimpressed; the visitors had seemed in some control. 202 for 7.

The drama spikes again: next ball and a big lb shout. Review takes an age – given out. Ultimately, ball-tracking shows not out. Kafta the relieved incomer. Half-shout last ball of the over, too but again going down. But we’re into the tail. Unwisely, perhaps, Kafta will face Ecclestone from the start of the over.

Most of the kids have gone home. Different vibe. (Almost no vibe, to be honest). Kapp hooks a short one hard. Cross not only stops it but picks it cleanly, rolling and hurls back a smart throw. Fine work – appreciated by the relatively small crowd.

Ecclestone has Jafta looking nervous. The batter not yet off the mark – 10 balls. 11. 12. 13. Solid forward press to defend. First clear fielding error, as Lamb lets an easy one through, at the boundary. Davidson-Richards the unfortunate bowler. More ill-luck striketh. Good ball is edged hard, by Jafta, but carries on the half-volley. Ecclestone does react but possible that *even Sciver* might not have claimed that one. On we go.

The genius that is Kapp – she really is magnificent – deservedly gets to 100. Yas, at my shoulder, says “woulda been a short game without her”. The fella’s right, of course. Kapp is in the top handful, worldwide. Tremendous talent, tremendous resilience and consistency, too. So I forgive her the batshit-crazy god stuff.

Jafta has 1 off 23, which is fine, of course. She just needs to hold on (for now).

Cross, from the Trescothick Pavilion. Still in flooding, then stalling sunshine. Jones up to the stumps. Could be that Cross and D-Richardson are doing the workhorse-thing before the young sprinters go hard with the new ball. (Currently in the 73rd: expecting Ecclestone/Sciver to drop in, if required, then Bell and Wong to blaze away. In the real world, they may still affect International Maturity but I’d rather they charged in for three overs each).

But in the lull, drama! And another highlights reel effort – this time from Wong, in the field. Jafta miscues but the ball is looping cruelly behind… and over. Wong re-adjusts and dives/cavorts backwards and grabs a hold. It’s really fine fielding. Cross was the bowler – she now has 3 wickets, a fair reflection of her contribution. The new batter – the beautifully-named Sekhukhune – is a left-hander.

As Ecclestone comes in, Knight may be thinking her side need to close this out sharpish. Kapp’s body-language *may be* suggesting she thinks she must go hard, in the expectation of minimal support. She’s clubbing for four more. (South Africa are now 240 for 8. Emma Lamb has just come on, to shuffle the pack. 77th over). We’re at that stage where each lump of ten runs feels ‘vital’.

Ecclestone gets a look at the left-hander. Half-chance, possibly as she cuffs away from the hip – legside fielder close-in. No dramas: ditto with Lamb from t’other end.

250 up, in the 80th over, as Kapp goes to 134. Hilarious changes in the field, as Kapp comes off-strike. (Rightly, England go from five on the boundary to everybody in the batter’s lap). No problem – Sekhukhune gets through… to the new ball… and Wong.

Kapp faces. First ball smacks in there and past the bat. Mixed over, though, including four byes down leg – whilst bowling at the alleged bunny. Drinks at 258 for 8.

Now – finally(?) – we have Bell and Wong in tandem. (Or assuming Wong continues, we do). Kapp unimpressed. Clips Bell serenely for four more then clatters her, club-cricketer-style, over midwicket. Wee bit chastening, for Bell, who has been more of a low-key threat than she might have hoped. Wong is back.

One good one beats the bat – Sekhukhune’s. Three slips and a gully in pace. Stout defence.

This is a FOUR DAY GAME. Some chatter that England may not be able to win it, from here, given weather/state of game/South African resilience – remember they lost three players on the eve of this thing. Too early to rule anything out, in my view but Knight and co will have to go some: they have players who can charge (Sciver & Dunkley may be the obvious ones but Beaumont and Knight herself can score quickly, as can Jones). The Big Issue may be that weather may either eat up chunks of precious time or work hard against batting.

But let’s enjoy the sunshine and the quality of Kapp. She drives classically straight to put young Wong back in her place. Four. She’s approaching 150. How long can her comrades hang on in there?

Long enough. She eases out through cover to get to the landmark score. But then she falls, looking to bully on. She hoists Bell over mid-off, where Beamount – as Wong had – adjusts her feet and launches backwards to take another outstanding catch. The end of something special – multiple England players run to congratulate the batter, as well as Comrade Tammy.

Now consider this. Kapp will be the one leading the bowling, in the absence of Ismail and Kahka, pret-ty promptly. Hope she has time a for a vigorous rub-down with the Jo’burg Chronicle. She’s a worldie, and I am not betting against a stonking performance with the ball, to go with that genuinely magnificent effort with the bat.

Mlaba has joined us. Bell and Sciver are now charged with extracting her, or Sekhukhune, who now has 9.

Bell is bowling her in-swinger, typically, with mixed success. (Too many missing leg-stump). At the 90 over mark, she has 2 for 47 off 16. Decent enough. But both she and Wong have looked like Works In Development – as they are entitled to do – rather than first and second choice international strike bowlers. Does this mean they get time? Surely. They get some time and some good coaching and they get better, more clinical, more consistent. Cross and Sciver are better pound-for-pound bowlers… but the young ‘uns are better suited to the Apex Predator Zone that is the first handful of overs. So invest in them.

Cross has bowled Mlaba with a treacly slower ball. Suddenly the game is done, with the visitors having set this baybee up quite nicely, at 284 all out. No more play today. Cross the pick of the bowlers, Kapp predictably finding her cool-but-also-heady level. Something in this for debutants Wong and Bell; something in it for the kids, I hope.