Preview: Lightning Vs Northern Diamonds

Hollie Armitage is hoping an exciting new dimension added to a strong foundation can provide the recipe for Northern Diamonds success this summer.

The Diamonds have concentrated their winter recruitment drive on off-spin, adding all-rounders Leigh Kasperek and Yvonne Graves to their ranks alongside Academy graduates Emma Marlow and Phoebe Turner and another homegrown all-rounder in Abi Glenn.

Marlow, like New Zealand’s Kasperek and Yorkshire-born Graves, also bowls off-spin.

When you consider that captain Armitage, who herself bowls useful leg-spin, also has leggie Katie Levick and left-armer Linsey Smith at her disposal, it could potentially be death by spin for some of their opponents.

“We didn’t have any off-spinners last year, but now we’ve got three,” said Armitage ahead of Saturday’s Charlotte Edwards T20 Cup opener against Lightning at Loughborough (2.30pm).

“If you look at the stats in women’s cricket against spin, that’s maybe the reason why.

“But it all depends on conditions and selection, doesn’t it. But we’ve got a lot of options, which is great.”

Departed are seamer Phoebe Graham and batter Ami Campbell, who have both taken up contracts with Thunder and Central Sparks respectively.

“We’re still a squad with the depth and strength we had last year, but just a different element to it,” said Armitage. “It will be exciting to see where we can go.”

Where they want to go is to the winner’s podium after finishing runners-up in all three regional finals so far.

“It’s a massive motivator,” continued Armitage.

“We worked really hard to put ourselves in a position to win trophies, and falling short has hurt us. But it gives us a bit more fire and fight to go one better.

“It can only stand us in good stead.

“If we can go one step further, it will mean so much to every player in the squad.”

The Diamonds have had a “very good build-up”, according to their skipper, who is embarking upon her second season at the helm.

Batter Armitage, 24, will be part of a top order which will include Lauren Winfield-Hill, available to start the season after a winter away with England.

Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver rejoined the squad on Wednesday. They will train in the East Midlands on Friday, but whether they play in the 2022 opener remains to be seen after more winter game time with England.

The Diamonds do have some injury issues to contend with, including all-rounder Jenny Gunn, but Sterre Kalis is due to fly back from Fairbreak Global duty in Dubai on Friday to play.

“I followed a few of the scores, and Sterre’s done really well,” said Armitage.

“Hopefully she brings that confidence and form back home, but also any learnings she’s had over there. She seems to have wintered really well. It’s exciting for our batting unit.”

On her own game, Armitage says she has tweaked some things technically in a bid to improve a return of two regional half-centuries last summer.

“They are really boring things which I think have made a massive difference to having a more stable stance,” she said, having scored two fifties in 213 early season runs for Yorkshire in county T20s.

“I’m feeling in a really good spot, both physically and mentally.”

New signing Yvonne Graves could face her twin sister Teresa, who will line up for a Lightning team, who did not qualify for either knockout stage in the CE Cup or the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

The Lightning have signed Australian all-rounder Piepa Cleary as their overseas player and have added Marie Kelly from Central Sparks.

Kelly has enjoyed an excellent start to the season with the bat in county cricket for Warwickshire and has hit the headlines due to bowling ambidextrous spinners.

“Marie Kelly is all I’ve been seeing on Twitter with the amount of runs she’s been scoring,” chuckled Armitage.

“Lightning are a fantastic side, but it’s not just them. All teams will come out fighting. I’m expecting both the Charlotte Edwards and the Rachael Heyhoe Flint to be very exciting competitions to watch this year.”

The Lightning also have a new coach (Chris Guest) and director of cricket (James Cutt).

Northern Diamonds Vs Lightning squad: Hollie Armitage (c), Abi Glenn, Yvonne Graves, Bess Heath, Rachel Hopkins, Leigh Kasperek. Beth Langston, Katie Levick, Emma Marlow, Linsey Smith, Rachel Slater, Phoebe Turner, Lauren Winfield-Hill