Firsts cross South Africa's gender divide

The firsts are lining up in South African cricket. All New Zealand need to do to claim their first win - and become the inaugural holders of the Tangiwai Shield - in all 18 men's Test series they have played against the South Africans is not lose in Hamilton next week. In Benoni on Tuesday, South Africa failed to take their chance to reach the men's under-19 World Cup final for the first time since 2014.

But it isn't all bad. In Sydney on Wednesday, South Africa beat bouts of bad weather along with the home side to earn their first win in 17 completed women's ODIs against Australia - which marked the first time in nine completed games in the format that the Australians were beaten. It was also only Australia's fourth loss in their 54 ODIs from March 2018.

That followed South Africa's first win in nine completed women's T20Is against the same opponents, in Canberra on Sunday. The Aussies clinched the rubber in Hobart two days later, but the South Africans had made their point.

The hero of Wednesday's match was Marizanne Kapp, who scored 75 off 87 and took 3/12 in five overs. She overcame not only her opponents and two interruptions for rain while she was batting, which reduced the match to innings of 45 overs, but also an elbow injury sustained when she was hit by a throw from the field during the first ODI in Adelaide on Saturday.

"Coming here this morning I felt 100%, and then I started hitting some balls and felt pain in my arm," Kapp told reporters in Sydney. "After speaking to the physio and doctor, they assured me the pain meds would soon start kicking in. They convinced me to play, and everything worked out."

But Kapp didn't need convincing about the importance of the result: "It's a proud moment, not only for me but for South African cricket as a whole. "We got a proper hiding in Adelaide [where South Africa were bowled out for 105 and Australia won by eight wickets in 19 overs], so to come out fighting in conditions that weren't easy showed a lot of fight and grit. It speaks volumes."

South Africa had slipped to 71/3 in the 16th when Kapp took guard. She batted through three partnerships, none of which reached 50 runs or 60 balls, and into the 42nd over to guide her team to a competitive 229/6. Then she took 3/7 in an opening burst of four overs.

But why did she bowl only more over after that? "I had batted for nearly two hours and I'm 34 years old," Kapp said. "It's starting to get tough. If it was my younger days, you wouldn't have been able to take the ball out of my hand." Besides, it didn't matter what with Ayanda Hlubi, Eliz-Mari Marx and Nadine de Klerk sharing six wickets as Australia crashed to 149 all out inside 30 overs.

Watching from the safer side of the boundary was Dane van Niekerk, until Kapp's retirement in March last year her teammate in a Test, 92 ODIs and 70 T20Is. Van Niekerk played in more than two-thirds of Kapp's internationals and Kapp in more than 80% of Van Niekerk's. They're also partners in life: they married in July 2018. Van Niekerk is in Australia as a commentator, which had its pros and cons for Kapp.

"It's not always nice when she comments," Kapp said. "I'm 34 years old; I know what I'm doing wrong. But it's nice to have her here. I was at third today, and she told me, 'Take out the slip. Put her in the covers.'"

The remark brought a ripple of laughter from the gathered press, but there was no levity in Mount Maunganui during David Bedingham's interaction with the media after South Africa - wilfully weakened by the SA20's demands on their first-choice players - shambled to defeat by 281 runs late on the fourth day of the first men's Test. Set an academic target of 529, the visitors were dismissed for 247 with Bedingham's 87 their best effort. "I don't want to look on the negative side because we still have another Test to play, and hopefully win," he said.

Indeed. The second Test starts on Tuesday. By then, the women's team could have another, even bigger, first to celebrate: the deciding ODI is in Sydney on Saturday.