Preview: Northern Diamonds v Lightning


Katie Levick has urged no let up from the Northern Diamonds as they bid to keep their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy fate in their own hands when they travel to Durham on Saturday.


The Diamonds have won three from three to start their bid for a third straight 50-over final but a first trophy.


They sit second in the eight-region table on 13 points, a point behind back-to-back champions Southern Vipers.


After the seven-game group stage, the top team qualifies directly for the Lord’s final on September 25, while second and third in the table play off in an effective semi-final a few days earlier.


The Diamonds are three points clear of South East Stars in third and, more importantly, have a four-point cushion over Western Storm in fourth. They have both of those two still to play.


But, first things first, they face Loughborough-based Lightning at the Seat Unique Riverside on Saturday (10.30am) - the last game before the near seven-week break for the Hundred.


The Diamonds have qualified for the last two RHFT finals without too much fuss, though they have experienced drama in the last two Charlotte Edwards campaigns.


Last season, they had to rely on another result going their way to qualify for Finals Day, and this season they missed out with a defeat in the final round of group games.


“Ultimately, you don’t want to be relying on other results going your way,” said Levick.


“We weren’t happy with that, so we want to try and keep things in our hands.


“To be three from three is brilliant, but we want to be four from four before we break for the Hundred.


“You always look at the calendar to see how it falls. Last year we made it more difficult for ourselves with the T20 break. We went into the Hundred break on the back of a couple of losses, and you’re always fighting hard when you come back.



“If we can get the fourth win this weekend, it would put us in a really good place when there might be a few tired bodies after the Hundred.


“We’ve put in some really strong team performances, and that is the main thing - it has been a team. Someone different is standing up for us each week.


“We’ve backed ourselves in 50-over cricket right from the start of this competition given our record, and it’s worked for us so far.”


After beating Thunder and Sunrisers - now the bottom two sides - arguably the Diamonds’ most impressive win came against this season’s CE Cup finalists Central Sparks at Worcester last Saturday when they won by five wickets with 10.4 overs to spare chasing 215.


Off-spinner Emma Marlow led the way with 2-37 from 10 overs having taken the new ball before Lauren Winfield-Hill made 50 and Hollie Armitage 60 not out in a routine chase.


“Sparks are a really good team, so we were definitely pleased with that one,” said Levick.


“Losing the toss on a hot day like it was can be tricky, but we were really happy to keep them to 214, which was not a lot. We put in a great performance with the ball and in the field.


“And then the way we batted, we showed just how good a batting track it was.”


After taking 15 wickets in six Charlotte Edwards games earlier in the season - she was the competition’s leading wicket-taker - Levick has contributed to 50-over wins in a different way.


She has taken two wickets in three games, but has been miserly in each of them. It has all added up to a memorable summer so far for the 31-year-old from Sheffield.


“First year as a professional, I really wanted to put down a marker, show that I can perform at this level when I’m fully focused on it,” she said.


“To take the wickets I did in the T20s was a highlight - I was really pleased with that.


“Even though I’ve not picked up the wickets so far in the 50-overs, I’ve been able to contain. And it’s as much about bowling in partnerships as it is batting.


“It was my turn in the 50-overs, now it’s someone else’s turn. But I’m still contributing.”


Such is Levick’s form that it makes you wonder whether an England call is realistic.


Fellow leg-spinner Sarah Glenn is no longer an automatic selection in senior squads, despite being named in England’s forthcoming Commonwealth Games squad.


Could Levick be another option they look at?


“I personally don’t think it’s that realistic and isn’t something I’m focusing on,” said the former England Academy twirler.


“I’m certainly not trying to put performances in to get an England call. I’m doing it to win trophies for the Diamonds.


“But you never say never. The only way to be in the conversation is to perform. Who knows!”


Lightning have won one of three 50-over games so far. They have lost to Storm and the Vipers, sandwiching success over Thunder in between.



“They’re a really good team who aren’t getting the wins they could be,” added Levick.


“They have a lot of international experience with the Bryce sisters, Katie Gordon and Tammy Beaumont may be available. They’re never one to take lightly, and I’m sure they will be fighting to prove a point.


“It’s just about continuing to do what we do best and nail our performance.


“It’s always nice to go to our other home up at Durham. We’ve certainly had some good performances and wins there over the last couple of years.”


Squad


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


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