Northern Diamonds fought back impressively to avoid what would have been a surprise defeat against Sunrisers in today’s thrilling spin-dominated Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy fixture at Headingley.
All 20 wickets fell to spin as the Diamonds were bowled out for 194 before putting the shackles on a Sunrisers team who had advanced to 44-0 in reply, ultimately bowling them out for 188 to win by only six runs.
Linsey Smith’s intervention was crucial, claiming three wickets in two overs as the Sunrisers slipped from 140-4 to 151-7, the England A left-arm spinner finishing with 3-34.
It was a haul all but matched by Academy graduate Emma Marlow, the fledgling off-spinner who finished with figures of 3-40 from her 10.
New Zealand overseas Leigh Kasperek had an excellent game with 2-42 following a vital 31 down the order with the bat.
Hollie Armitage, who took the winning wicket in the 46th over, also had a captain’s day out. She top-scored with 47 off 59 balls before adding two wickets, including the points sealer when Abtaha Maqsood was trapped lbw playing to leg.
The Diamonds have now won two from two to make the ideal start to their RHFT campaign, backing up last week’s Roses win over Thunder at Sale CC.
Make no mistake, this pitch was not a raging turner. It was largely good, but it did enough to keep two spin-dominated bowling attacks interested.
In many ways, it was quite ironic that the two teams were coached by former England spinners, Laura Marsh and Dani Hazell.
Sunrisers will be mightily frustrated at missing the chance to win their first 50-over game in three seasons as a region. What looked for large parts like a maiden victory turned into a 15th straight defeat.
But they contributed enormously to a brilliant game of cricket on a sun-kissed Headingley afternoon.
Off-spinning all-rounders Grace Scrivens and Mady Villiers both claimed career best four-wicket hauls as the Diamonds, who elected to bat, were bowled out for 194 in 49.5 overs.
Eighteen-year-old England A prospect Scrivens impressed with 4-20 from 10 overs, a career best haul and her second four-for in as many weeks after one against Stars last week.
Only three home batters, led by Armitage’s with a well constructed 47 off 59 balls, made it into the twenties.
The others, Leigh Kasperek with 31 from number eight and Katie Levick’s 28 from number 10. Their contributions were absolutely vital.
The Diamonds were 120-8 in the 33rd over before Kasperek, Levick and Rachel Slater crucially added 74 runs for the last two wickets. The former two shared 41 for the ninth wicket before Kasperek and Slater added 33 for the 10th.
Lauren Winfield-Hill departed for two nine balls into the match, caught behind cutting at Villiers - 4-1. Villiers (4-36 from 9.5 overs) also had the other opener Smith stumped for one as the score slipped to 17-2 in the fourth over.
Then it was Scrivens’ turn to get in on the act, taking the next four wickets, including two in the 27th over, as the score became 110-6.
She had Sterre Kalis caught behind, Armitage lbw within sight of a half-century, Yvonne Graves caught behind and Bess Heath caught at deep backward square-leg by debutant Jess Olorenshaw. The latter two came within five balls in the 27th.
By this time, the Diamonds were in significant strife. And it got worse.
Leg-spinner Maqsood and offie Jo Gardner removed Phoebe Turner and Marlow - 120-8 in the 33rd - before the lower order brought respectability to the score.
Villiers, however, dashed the Diamonds’ hopes of posting 200 by getting Levick and Kasperek well caught as the innings drew to a close.
Openers Scrivens and Cordelia Griffiths (29) fortified Sunrisers’ position as favourites, though the comeback was started by wily Kasperek, who had Griffith caught at wide mid-off before Scrivens was trapped lbw by Marlow, who also bowled Villiers - 84-3 in the 21st.
The comeback was on!
Earlier, wicketkeeper Amara Carr had taken four catches and a stumping. But when she top-edged a sweep at Armitage’s leg-spin and was smartly caught behind by Winfield-Hill, the Sunrisers were 110-4 in the 26th and still 85 short.
Naomi Dattani played nicely on her way to 41 to keep her side ahead. But Gardner was left-armer Smith’s first wicket of three quick wickets - lbw for 17 as the score fell to 140-5 in the 33rd.
Smith, who played for England A against South Africa earlier this week, then had Kelly Castle caught at slip by Kalis before bowling Dattani next ball, with the score now 151-7 in the 35th over.
At that stage, it was the Diamonds ahead.
Kasperek removed Katherine Speed - another catch for Kalis at slip - before debutant Jess Olorenshaw hit a breezy 25 to bring about another twist.
However, when she was bowled by Marlow, it was 178-9 in the 42nd over.
Seventeen needed became seven needed, only for Armitage to account for Maqsood lbw to show once against that this Diamonds side has character in bucketloads.