James Carr is expecting much more to come from the Northern Diamonds in the coming weeks.
The Diamonds have won three of their opening four Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy games and sit top of the table. But they now switch their attentions to the start of the Regional T20 this weekend, a competition now named the Charlotte Edwards Cup.
Watching on, director of cricket Carr has had his nerves frayed by three thrillers. The Diamonds have won two of them against the Lightning and the South East Stars having lost their opener against Central Sparks.
Sandwiched in between, they hammered Sunrisers by nine wickets.
“I guess it’s been perfectly imperfect,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve peaked yet, which has been really good.
“We’ve lost one game which we should have won, but that has harvested a hammering of a team and a couple of other close wins.
It’s a good place to be in where we’re not satisfied yet we sit top of the table with nine points, and there is definitely a lot more to come.
“We’re going into a different format, but we’re not going to win many games at 70-5 chasing 250 like we did against the Sparks last weekend.
“Having said that, not many teams have got Jenny Gunn, Beth Langston and Linsey Smith coming in at seven, eight and nine
“We do very much have an ‘over my dead body, we’ve not lost until we’ve lost attitude’.”
As Carr indicates, the Diamonds top order batting can improve, best highlighted by the fact Hollie Armitage has not yet bettered 21 in four games.
“Hollie has looked good in all the games, so I’m not concerned at all there,” said Carr. “T20 almost gives her that bit of license.
“If she gets 30 or 40 in a 50-over game and gets out, she may feel she’s left a few out there. But 30 or 40 in a T20 game is the bulk of her job done at the top of the order.
“Of course, we’d love her to kick on and get 80, 90 or 100 in a T20. It’s definitely possible.
“But I think this T20 stuff comes at a nice time for her.
“Sterre (Kalis) is leading the way again for us, but there are plenty runs still to come from Hollie, Rachel Hopkins, Ami Campbell and Alex MacDonald, all of whom had scores last year.
“Ultimately, filling the boots of our three international players (Katherine Brunt, Nat Sciver and Lauren Winfield-Hill, who are all away with England) is going to be key.
“There’s a lot of energy and excitement to our team, that never say die attitude as I said. That lends itself to T20 cricket.”
Despite the confidence in the Diamonds camp, they are refusing to count their chickens.
They come up against a Thunder side in good shape themselves.
A young side coached by Yorkshireman Paul Shaw, they have won two out of their opening four 50-over matches and triumphed over the previously unbeaten Central Sparks in their last fixture.
“Anyone can win a game of T20 cricket,” said Carr.
“Whereas it looks like there were some clear frontrunners around the 50-over stuff, I genuinely think anyone can win this T20 competition. I really do.”
And returning to the subject of skipper Armitage, who was allowed to travel to Australia and miss the first full winter of training with the Diamonds, Carr added: “I think Hollie has led the team absolutely brilliantly so far.
“She’s come back from Australia fresh and rejuvenated.
“We felt it was right for Hollie to go out there.
“She met us halfway with contacts out there and solutions to get round potential issues with Covid and such. And it’s worked in all parties favour so far.”
The eight regions are split into two groups. The best placed group winner advances directly to the final on September 5 (Finals Day).
Beforehand, an effective semi-final will be played between the other group winner and the best second-placed team across the two groups.
A look at the opposition - North West Thunder
Coach: Paul Shaw
Captain: Alex Hartley
Overseas: Piepa Cleary (Australia - full competition)
Key player: Emma Lamb - Dynamic opening batter and canny off-spinner who has already scored a century for the Thunder in 50-over cricket this summer. Her game looks ideally suited to T20 cricket.
Flies under the radar: Piepa Cleary - Australian overseas all-rounder with nearly 50 WBBL appearances for Perth Scorchers Down Under. Steadying influence with ball (seamer) and bat in a young Thunder side.
Rising Star: Hannah Jones - Contracted left-arm spinner, 22, has played second fiddle to England’s Sophie Ecclestone in early stages of 50-over campaign. Now is her time to shine. Lovely, languid action like Ecclestone.
The Season Ahead: The Thunder’s aim at the start of the summer, including the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, was to further develop their young squad and bloody some noses of the more experienced teams along the way. A haul of two wins in four matches is a profitable return, especially as it included a win over previously unbeaten Central Sparks at Worcester the Saturday before last. The aim will be the same again for Paul Shaw, Alex Hartley and co, and they will get a shot at arguably the biggest scalp immediately when they open the competition with a trip to Emerald Headingley to face ‘Roses’ rivals Northern Diamonds on Saturday afternoon. Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone will miss at least the early stages of the competition due to England one-day duty. Having only recently dropped the ‘North West’ prefix to their title, they are now just known as Thunder.