Dani Hazell is expecting her Northern Diamonds to be back, bigger and better than ever, next year.
The Diamonds coach admitted she was “super proud” of the side following a narrow defeat in Saturday’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final against Southern Vipers at Northampton’s Wantage.
After adding 67 for the last two wickets to post 183 all out, the Diamonds reduced the defending champions to 109-7 before a recovery of their own secured a three-wicket win with two balls to spare.
It left Hazell and co contemplating a third straight final defeat at the start of the regional era in English women’s domestic cricket, including losing both RHFT finals to the Vipers.
The glass half empty view is that they are yet to get over the line in a final. But the glass half full view is that they are the only region to have reached all three finals.
“I said to the girls right at the end of the game, ‘There are so many positives to take from this summer’,” said Hazell.
“We made two finals. When you look at like that, it’s good. If you’d have given me that at the start of the year, I’d have taken them.
“We’re desperate to get over the line and would have liked one of them to be a trophy - or both. But it shows we are doing plenty of good things.”
Hazell continued: “We battled hard in the first half, and we got ourselves into a position to fight. And they did fight unbelievably hard. So I’m super proud of the girls.
“It’s frustrating not to get over the line again, but to get to 180 from 116-8 was a great effort.
“Ami (Campbell, with 60) was brilliant. In the last three or four games, she has been.
“She’s shown a lot of maturity in her batting. She had that license at the end, and that’s what she can do. She nearly finished with a run a ball, which was some effort from how slowly she started.
“That’s not something you expect from her, but it was exactly what was needed. She played the situation superbly.
“It was an old-school game, which are always exciting. It went right to the last over, and it shows where these two teams are at. There isn’t much between us. It’s come down to three or four balls at the end.”
The Diamonds tactic has been to add significant experience to their team in the early stages of the regional era to ensure they hit the ground running.
But now you are starting to see the next generation push through, highlighted by debuts given to the likes of Leah Dobson, Rachel Slater and Ella Telford this summer. The former two played in Saturday’s final.
“There are always things we can work on, as there will be with every side,” said former England spinner Hazell “We’ll reflect on the positives and also look at the things we can be better at.
“But we have a really strong foundation to improve and move forwards from.
“It’s about developing the youngsters. We’ve done it through this comp, but we have to continue doing that.
“These experienced girls aren’t going to be around forever, so we have to make sure we blood the younger ones.
“It’s getting them through at the right time, putting them under pressure at the right time. It can also be about taking them out of the firing line when they don’t need to be in it.
“We’re going in the right direction, and it’s exciting going into the winter.
“We’ll see how far we can push the girls over the winter, and I’m expecting us to come back stronger next summer.”