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DANE VAN NIEKERK has hailed The Hundred as a step forward for equality before the format’s first ever match takes place tomorrow night.
The South Africa skipper will lead south London-based Oval Invincibles against visitors Manchester Originals as three years of turbulent planning and preparation finally gives way to on-field action.
Much is new and controversial about the tournament, from the unfamiliar city-based teams to the abolition of the six-ball over, but the decision to hand centre stage to a women’s match is breaking fresh ground too.
The Twenty20 circuit is effectively dominated by men’s cricket, but the England and Wales Cricket Board has delivered on its promise to give equal billing to both editions in The Hundred.
“It feels pretty special and it shows what The Hundred stands for,” Van Niekerk said.
“It’s about equality. To give us as females the first game is something really exciting and I’m honoured to be part of it. This is a sport for all and it doesn’t matter where you come from, your background, your race or your sexuality. It’s an even playing field.
“People can be hesitant about any change but hopefully we can put up a really good show in the first game and get people around the world really excited about this.”
Captains in The Hundred can decide to let bowlers send down sets of five or 10 deliveries — one of the primary tweaks to traditional playing conditions. But Van Niekerk admits she will need to keep her wits about her if she is to take advantage.
“In the warm-up game we had I forgot about the 10-ball rule! It’s scary how fast it went by. You look up, 40 balls have gone and you don’t know where they went,” she said.
“But I think it’s a great concept and as a captain I need to figure it out. It’s going to be about reading the game and seeing who is bowling really well. If I see a bowler all over a batter and it feels like we’ve got a chance to take them out, I’ll probably go for it.”
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