Preview: Central Sparks vs Northern Diamonds

Dani Hazell wants her Northern Diamonds side to get ahead of the game with success in their next two Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy fixtures, starting against Central Sparks at New Road on Saturday.

The Diamonds have already won two from two in the regional 50-over competition and face the Sparks at Worcestershire (10.30am) and then Lightning next Saturday at Durham.

After Durham, the competition breaks for the Hundred, after which there are three remaining fixtures in the race for the September 25 final at Lord’s.

Coach Hazell and co currently sit second in the eight-team table, a point behind Southern Vipers on nine, and their case for a third straight RHFT final appearance will be strengthened with wins across the next two Saturdays.

“We identified these four games as being massive,” said Hazell.

“Can we really nail this period of the season going into the Hundred?

“There may be a few more tired bodies coming back after that Hundred, so it might be about looking after a few people during the second half of the competition.

“These four games were huge. They can make or break your season.”

The Diamonds are in good order having beaten Thunder at Sale and Sunrisers at Headingley so far.

The former was comprehensive, the latter a nervy affair on Saturday when they recovered from 120-8 to post 194 before reducing Sunrisers from 44-0 in reply to 188 all out.

“There are definitely things we can work on ahead of the weekend,” said the former England off-spinner, reflecting on the Sunrisers game.

“We lost a few soft wickets, and there were people who potentially should have kicked on. If the situation arises again, we’re confidently they will kick on to get the eighties, nineties and hundreds, like we did against Thunder.

“Our bowling unit is pretty consistent. There aren’t many days it has a shocker.

“It’s about being really clear with what you’re trying to do with the bat.

“But sometimes you have to give credit to the opposition. Sunrisers bowled well against us. But as soon as we saw their spinners do well, we knew we had a great chance because of our strength.

“It was a great game of cricket for to people to watch.”

Sparks, beaten finalists in the early summer Charlotte Edwards (T20) Cup, have lost one and won one so far in the RHFT.

Beaten by champions Vipers the Saturday before last, they bounced back to beat Western Storm at the weekend. Former Diamond Ami Campbell scored 50 in 206 all out before leg-spinner Sarah Glenn claimed four wickets to secure a 22-run victory.

“They’ve been a pretty strong side throughout the last three years,” said Hazell.

“It’s no surprise to me that they’ve made a final and are getting themselves up and about.

“I think it will be a great game. We are two evenly matched sides, and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Diamonds have had to battle through a fair amount of disruption through injury and unavailability this season, but they remain in with an excellent chance of silverware.

Lauren Winfield-Hill missed all but two games in the Charlotte Edwards with a quad injury, for example, while fellow England internationals Jenny Gunn and Beth Langston have only played three regional games between them this summer.

Gunn, having recovered from a knee injury, missed last week’s Sunrisers game with a calf issue and is unavailable, while Langston has been out with a foot issue. She, however, is set to play as a batter at New Road.

“It’s been frustrating,” said Hazell. “But that’s the nature of the game. That’s just part and parcel of professional sport.

“You’d love to have 15 to choose from every time, but it’s rarely possible, as you’ve seen this season.

“But we have trust in every single player in our squad that they’re good enough to be out there and can go and win us a game.

“When you set your bar so high, there’s always going to be a point when you don’t quite meet it. We’d have loved to qualify for the finals of the Charlotte Edwards. And, my god, we tried everything we could. But it didn’t happen.

“There were still positive things we took from that, things we learnt as well, and our focus is on this now. It’s been a good start, but there’s a long way to go.”

As the Diamonds go toe to toe with the Sparks, Yorkshire’s men will be taking on Vitality Blast Finals Day down the road at Edgbaston.

Hazell added: “What a day it could be for Yorkshire Cricket. The boys in the semi-final against Lancashire, that’s huge. We would love to see three wins between us on Saturday.

“We wish them all the best. It would be fantastic if they could bring it home.”


Hollie Armitage, Yvonne Graves, Bess Heath, Mariko Hill, Rachel Hopkins, Sterre Kalis, Leigh Kasperek, Beth Langston, Katie Levick, Emma Marlow, Linsey Smith, Rachel Slater, Phoebe Turner, Lauren Winfield-Hill.