James Carr is expecting a wide open summer of regional women’s cricket following the release of the Northern Diamonds fixture schedule.
The ECB have released the dates for both an expanded 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and the Regional Twenty20 competition.
Last summer, Carr, the director of women’s cricket for Yorkshire and the North East, oversaw the Diamonds run to the final of the shortened 50-over Trophy alongside head coach Dani Hazell, when they were beaten by Southern Vipers at Edgbaston.
He is confident of going one step further in both 50-over and T20 cricket and claiming silverware.
But he is also expecting increased competition from those sides who struggled in 2020.
“There will be expectation on us because of how things went,” he said.
“But I also think anyone can still win the competitions because everything is so embryonic in terms of the (regional women’s) set-up.
“If you have a bad couple of games, which anyone can have, it puts you under pressure.
“I’m not saying that’s what will happen to us, but what I am saying is, ‘Don’t be surprised if the North West Thunder come good or Sunrisers from the South come good on the back of a full winter to train, which they didn’t have last year’.
“But I’m very hopeful we will do well.
“The girls are buying into the culture we are trying to create, and I want us to be making finals on a regular basis.
“As a result, we will get girls picked to play for England, which is what we’re all trying to achieve.”
The Diamonds begin their summer in the RHF Trophy against Central Sparks at Emerald Headingley on Saturday May 29, the first of seven group games.
They play all the regions once through to September 18 before a potential play-off clash on Wednesday September 22 and the final on Saturday 25.
The top team in the group advances directly to the final, while the play-off fixture involves the second and third-placed teams.
The Diamonds have four home games – two at Headingley and two at Durham’s Emirates Riverside – and three away.
The regional women’s T20 competition begins with a home clash with cross-Pennine rivals North West Thunder at Emerald Headingley on Saturday June 26.
That is part of a double header with Yorkshire men, who also host Northamptonshire that day in the Vitality Blast.
For the T20 competition, the eight teams are split into groups of four. There will be six games – three at home and three away – through to Monday August 30.
There will then be a Finals Day on Sunday September 5.
The best group winner will advance direct to the final. Beforehand, the other group winner plays the best second-placed finisher from the two groups for the right to play in the final.
The basic flow of the women’s domestic summer sees the Yorkshire women play a handful of T20s in April and May before the Diamonds play the first half of their 50-over campaign.
The T20 competition is then completed either side of the Hundred in late July and into August before the remaining 50-over fixtures end the season.
“I’m really pleased with that in terms of those girls who haven’t got Hundred contracts have the chance put their names in the frame through playing T20 cricket immediately beforehand,” commented Carr.
2021 promises to be an extremely exciting year for the women’s cricket in England, with each of the eight regions contracting five full-time professionals.
The Diamonds have employed Hollie Armitage, Phoebe Graham, Jenny Gunn, Beth Langston and Linsey Smith as they aim to build on a very encouraging first campaign last year.
Carr said: “Dani (Hazell) and I got together and had to be very technical about it. ‘How do we construct a squad here?’ And it came off for us.
“Jenny Gunn performed on the field and helped younger players such as Sterre Kalis and Hollie Armitage for example. Then there was Phoebe Graham and Rachel Hopkins getting a chance to play pro cricket in their later 20s.
“Aged 28 or 29 isn’t old, but starting a pro journey at that age is pretty rare in cricket.
“But they’ve shown there is plenty of miles in the tank at that age, and even older.
“Jenny, as a retiring England player, has come back into the domestic system and added plenty of nourishment already.
“Phoebe is 29-years-old, so she has a good head on her shoulders. But her cricket age is probably 20.
“So you have a 29-year-old adult with all her life skills – she’s lived away from home and worked in the big smoke of London – but now with the hunger and desire of a 20-year-old in terms of her cricket.
“We are getting the best of both worlds.
“But the thing that excites me the most is the four girls who didn’t play and ran drinks for a month (Leah Dobson, Rachel Slater, Ella Telford and Layla Tipton)
“They are 19, 20 and 21, and are mixing with the likes of Lauren (Winfield-Hill), Jenny, Hollie and Beth. That puts us in a good space.”
RACHAEL HEYHOE FLINT TROPHY, NORTHERN DIAMONDS
SAT 29 MAY, CENTRAL SPARKS, EMERALD HEADINGLEY Mon 31 May, Lightning, (Venue TBC) Sat 5 June, Sunrisers, (Venue TBC) SAT 12 JUNE, SOUTH EAST STARS, EMERALD HEADINGLEY FRI 10 SEPTEMBER, WESTERN STORM, RIVERSIDE DUR SUN 12 SEPTEMBER, NORTH WEST THUNDER, RIVERSIDE DUR Sat 18 September, Southern Vipers, (Venue TBC) Wed 22 September, 2nd v 3rd playoff, (Venue TBC) Sat 25 September, Final, (Venue TBC)
WOMEN’S REGIONAL T20, NORTHERN DIAMONDS
SAT 26 JUNE, NORTH WEST THUNDER, EMERALD HEADINGLEY Fri 2 July, Sunrisers, Chelmsford Sat 10 July, Western Storm, Taunton WED 25 AUGUST, SUNRISERS, (VENUE TBC) SAT 28 AUGUST, WESTERN STORM, RIVERSIDE DUR Mon 30 August, North West Thunder, (Venue TBC) Sun 5 September, Finals Day, (Venue TBC)