Coach Dani Hazell is relishing the opportunity her Northern Diamonds side have in their blockbuster Charlotte Edwards Cup clash with cross-Pennine rivals Thunder today.
Diamonds know they realistically have to win their final round Group Two fixture at Chester Boughton Hall (2.30pm) to have any chance of reaching next Sunday’s Finals Day at the Ageas Bowl.
The Diamonds missed the chance to seal qualification when beaten by Western Storm at Durham yesterday, losing top spot in the process. But chipper Hazell is refusing to look back in anger.
A victory over Storm would have all but sealed their passage through to the Southampton showpiece occasion. Unfortunately, they lost by four wickets defending a 111 target.
It means the fate of the Diamonds is out of their hands heading into a Thunder clash which could see rested England star Lauren Winfield-Hill return to action.
The Diamonds realistically have to win and hope for a favour from elsewhere, though a tie could yet be enough. That is something the Thunder did at Sunrisers yesterday.
“Yes we want to win games of cricket and get to Finals Day, but as long as we’re moving forwards - and I think we are - then there are plenty of positives to take,” said the former England World Cup-winning spinner.
“We just have to learn from this and go into the next one and do our job.
“A lot of this is about learning.
“We’ve just played in the Hundred, which has gone up another level.
“I’d like to have been top going into Monday, of course I would. But we are where we are. We have to fight, as we normally do, and let the rest take care of itself.
“We’re in a position where we can still win the T20 stuff and the 50-overs (Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy) as well. If you’d have said that to me at the beginning of the year, I would have taken it.
“We’ll pop down to Chester and see what we can do. It’s exciting.”
Three places are on offer at Finals Day.
The top team in each of the two groups qualifies, as does the best second-placed finisher.
The best group winner advances directly to the late afternoon final, with the others playing off in the semi-final at midday.
The permutations are nothing short of mind-boggling.
In Group Two, Storm are top on 13 points, Diamonds second with 12 and Thunder third with 11. All three can still qualify either as group winner or the best second-placed team.
If the Diamonds beat Thunder, avenging the 12-run defeat at Emerald Headingley in June, the first result they will look for is Storm’s against Sunrisers at Fenner’s.
A Storm defeat would see Diamonds top the group with a regular four-point haul or even a tie - as much of a long shot as that is.
If Storm won, the Diamonds would have to win with a bonus point to have a chance of finishing top of the group on net run-rate. A bonus point is achieved where a winning team’s run-rate is 1.25 or greater times that of the opposition.
If Storm win and the Diamonds don’t get above them with a win, then they have to look at Group One, which is headed by South East Stars on 17 points with Southern Vipers second on 15 and Central Sparks third on 12.
They would have to hope the Vipers lose against Lightning in order to advance as the best second-placed finisher. Even then, the Diamonds and the Sparks could finish level on 16 points. But the Diamonds have a far superior net run-rate.
The Diamonds will almost certainly be without injured seamer Beth Langston, but fellow quick Phoebe Graham returns to the squad having missed yesterday’s game.
The other significant piece of team news comes in the form of England batter Winfield-Hill’s pending return following two games on the sidelines resting after the Hundred.
“There’s potential for Lauren to be with us,” added Hazell. “Lauren’s a fantastic player who we love having around. To have her would be a big boost for us.”
Thunder will be without talismanic all-rounder Emma Lamb, who has been called into England’s T20 squad.