“I think it’s going to be a really good game.”
The Northern Diamonds are raring to go ahead of Wednesday’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy semi-final eliminator against Central Sparks, says director of cricket James Carr.
The Diamonds and Sparks, second and third in the final group table, face off at Scarborough (10.30am) for the right to advance to Saturday’s final against Southern Vipers at Northampton.
Captain Hollie Armitage’s side were unable to advance directly to that final when, on Saturday just gone, they lost their last group game against the Vipers at the Ageas Bowl by five wickets defending 257.
It was a clash between the top two sides in the group table, and the winner would advance to Wantage Road.
But, far from feeling glum about being forced into this clash with the Sparks, they are relishing the opportunity to reach their third straight final in the early stages of the regional era.
“The preference would have been to avoid this game, but the upside is that it’s another opportunity for someone to go and get five wickets or score a hundred,” said Carr.
“It can build momentum and leave us in a good place going into Saturday.
“Looking at the (Vipers) result, we narrowly lost with some key players missing.
“Jenny Gunn, Katie Levick and Alex MacDonald have pretty much been permanent fixtures for the whole season and were all missing through injury and availability.
“We took a lot out of that defeat.
“Adams and Elwiss had a good partnership, but I never felt they were away from us run-rate wise.
“It was always hovering around five and six an over. But they kept wickets in the tent. It was a well paced chase, but we always felt one mad over could win it.
“It was a good run out for the girls who played, and we can take a lot of positives both with ball and bat.”
That fixture was watched by the England women’s football team from the balcony of the Ageas Bowl’s Hilton hotel given they had played a World Cup qualifier at Southampton on Friday.
As aforementioned by Carr, the Diamonds were missing Katie Levick, Alex MacDonald and injured Jenny Gunn (calf) at the Ageas.
“Lev will be available on Wednesday,” said Carr.
“We might just have to manage Jen’s workload. She batted in the nets on Saturday, did her rehab work and even had a little bowl.
“It’s just whether she can play two games Wednesday-Saturday. But we have to be mindful that we need to win Wednesday to get to Saturday.”
The Sparks were also beaten on Saturday, by 24 runs against Lightning at Loughborough when chasing 321.
The two sides met in the very first game of the season, in this competition at Emerald Headingley on Saturday May 29.
All the England players were available - they won’t be tomorrow - and the Sparks won by two wickets chasing 280. Lauren Winfield-Hill scored a century for the Diamonds, as did Amy Jones for the visitors. They had to recover from 196-8 to win.
They won their first three games of the competition and, like the Diamonds, have topped the RHFT group table during the group stage.
A win on Wednesday would mean the Diamonds will have reached each of the three finals at the start of the English domestic regional structure.
But they are still chasing their first title having been beaten in last season’s RHFT final and this season’s Charlotte Edwards (T20) Cup final.
“We had a good start to regional life and have developed, but the Sparks have also come a long way,” added Carr.
“You’ve seen that with their contracted players, Eve Jones and Marie Kelly getting runs and Emily Arlott getting drafted into an England training squad and Issy Wong bowling the speed of light.
“But our contracted players have developed very well as well.
“Plus, look at what our wider squad have been doing, especially recently. Leah Dobson has hit her straps, Bess Heath as well. Rachel Slater and Ella Telford have been capped and made debuts.
“I think we have great depth. But we shouldn’t take the Sparks lightly.
“In the short time we’ve professionalised it, the standard has increased dramatically across the domestic game. We’ve seen that in the Hundred and in the regional competitions as well.
“Wednesday is definitely going to be one to look forward to.”
Tickets are available to buy on the gate at Scarborough on Wednesday. Turnstiles open at 9am with tickets available at £5 for adults and £1 for juniors.