South Africa 284: Kapp 150, Cross 4-63England 328-6: Sciver 119*, Davidson-Richards 107; Bosch 3-59England lead by 44 runsScorecard
Centuries from Nat Sciver and debutant Alice Davidson-Richards took England from trouble to a position of strength on the second day of the one-off Test against South Africa.
Sciver ended the day on 119 not out, while Davidson-Richards’ 107 made her the first England woman to register a Test ton on debut since 1986.
Davidson-Richards fell to what proved to be the final ball of the day, ending a partnership of 207, equalling the second-highest for any England wicket in women’s Tests.
That left England 328-6, leading South Africa by 44 runs.
It represented a turnaround after the hosts lost three wickets for 35 runs to reach 121-5, the mini-collapse having included the loss of captain Heather Knight, run out for eight from the first ball after lunch.
South Africa seamer Anneke Bosch picked up three wickets, taking advantage of the cloudy conditions that meant the floodlights needed to be used for most of the day.
The Proteas had the opportunity of a lead, but instead face the prospect of starting their second innings with a large deficit.
England counter-punch on grey day
While South Africa’s 284 felt competitive, the suspicion was that England might be able to take advantage of an inexperienced visiting attack.
That looked like being borne out when Emma Lamb and Tammy Beaumont were adding 65 for the first wicket, only for England to struggle once the lights were turned on.
Bosch, swinging the ball away from the right-handers, trapped Beaumont lbw for 28 then bowled Lamb with an off-cutter for 38.
The hosts also created problems for themselves. Sciver called for a non-existent single to do for Knight, while Sophia Dunkley played a loose drive to edge Bosch. When Amy Jones was bowled by one left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba got to turn, England were in huge trouble.
But just as Marizanne Kapp rescued South Africa with her superb 150 on day one, Sciver did the same for England with an innings that was equally impressive.
She found a willing ally in Davidson-Richards, her school-mate from Epsom College, where along with cricket they also played netball and hockey together.
They put together a partnership of the highest class, first navigating England out of danger, then capitalising on a tiring attack and strange South African tactics to score quickly after tea.
Superb Sciver stars again
The last time Sciver batted in an England shirt she was was making a defiant century in a losing cause in the World Cup final against Australia.
Whereas that knock was about her stellar strokeplay, this was measured and intelligent, absorbing the pressure before scoring all around the wicket.
Sciver offered two very difficult chances, a possible leg-side stumping when she was on 15 and a flash past gully fielder Lizelle Lee off the seam of Nadine de Klerk on 18.
As she grew in stature, she exhibited her back-foot power off the pace bowlers and hit the spinners down the ground.
Sciver reached her century by pinching a single off the bowling of Kapp, becoming the first England woman other than Knight to score a Test hundred since former captain Charlotte Edwards 11 years ago.
Davidson-Richards justifies recall
All-rounder Davidson-Richards had not played for England since six limited-overs matches in 2018 but was called up for this Test to add balance to the side.
Her response was to become only the third England woman to score a hundred on Test debut, a feat made all the more impressive given the hosts’ perilous position when she arrived at the crease.
The 28-year-old showed great composure, smiling throughout her innings, scoring freely through the off side with back-foot punches and cover drives.
Fittingly, she reached three figures by steering Bosch through point, leaping into the air in celebration.
With the close in touching distance, Davidson-Richards was agonisingly dismissed to the fifth ball of the day’s final over, cutting Tumi Sekhukhune to point fielder Lee.