Preview: Northern Diamonds vs Sunrisers



If and when Bess Heath graduates through to England’s senior squad following her appearance for the A team earlier this week, it sounds like she will be a very popular team-mate.


Heath has played in a T20 warm-up international against the touring South Africans at Cardiff on Monday alongside Northern Diamonds colleague Linsey Smith.


Contracted wicketkeeper bat Heath has impressed, scoring a brisk 43 in a 15-run T20 win in Wales.


The 20-year-old Yorkshire player from Chesterfield is highly-rated both within the Diamonds set up and outside of it, as her England call-up suggests.


Heath hit an unbeaten, match-clinching 51, in Sunday’s commanding Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy win over Thunder at Sale and will be back in regional colours on Saturday when the Diamonds host Sunrisers at Headingley (10.30am).


“What a great character. If you ever need anything - your career breaks down, things like that - Bess is the one to go to,” said fellow Diamond Jenny Gunn.


“For such a young kid to have her head screwed on like she has, it’s amazing.


“Bess is such an impressive person. She built her car from the ground up, she’s from a family of tree surgeons, and she can even make a punchbag out of sawdust.


“You could do a day in the life of Bess Heath and you wouldn’t get bored. In fact, you’d be tired just watching her because she can’t sit still.”


With 255 international caps to her name between 2004 and 2019, Gunn knows just what it takes to succeed in an England shirt.


“For me, how smart Bess is will be what makes her an international cricketer,” said the all-rounder.


“As a cricketer, she’s learnt so much in such a short space of time. She’s only properly learnt how to play the reverse sweep this winter and she’s already hitting them for six.


“She’s such an exciting player. She has a lot of power, she always has had that. But she’s a lot smarter with it now. That’s a very dangerous prospect for opponents.


“We’re lucky that we have Linsey Smith as well. We have people battling for England places at the Diamonds, and it’s brilliant to see.”


Gunn is no longer battling for an England place having retired almost three years ago. But the good news is that she is firmly back in contention for regional cricket having had the first part of this summer wrecked by a knee injury.


The 36-year-old has only played two games so far this summer, the final Charlotte Edwards Cup fixture in May and the opening RHFT game at Sale on Sunday.


“It was April or May time, and I was batting in training,” she explained.


“I had two balls left to face in my practice, and I reached to hit a cover drive, slipped and hyper-extended my knee. It’s been so frustrating because it was a nothing injury which took me out.”


Gunn claimed 1-33 from nine overs against Thunder on Sunday, the hosts posting 235-7 before Lauren Winfield-Hill anchored the chase, achieved with six wickets and 7.4 overs in hand, with an excellent 93.


“It’s always nice to get a win early in a campaign,” reflected Gunn.


“It was a better wicket than we thought it was going to be. But Lauren batted really well. All our batters batted well.


“How we batted in the Twenty20 game there in May, I know it’s a different format, but we lost quite a lot of wickets. Thunder must have thought, ‘We have a chance here’. But we dealt with what they threw at us really well.


“Our bowlers also did an amazing job to restrict them.


“Rachel Slater only bowled four overs, but she set the tone really well with the new ball.


“For Katie Levick to get Deandra Dottin in the powerplay was exceptional.”


Sunrisers have lost all seven games so far this season; six in the Charlotte Edwards and Saturday’s RHFT opener by 80 runs at South East Stars. Not that the Diamonds will be taking them for granted, however.


“Anybody can beat anybody,” Gunn said. “They’re a young side, but they’ve been a bit unlucky with some close games that they’ve not been able to scrape over the line.”


Much has already been spoken about the prospect of a Lord’s final in this competition on September 25, with the top team in the eight-region group stage securing direct qualification.


Gunn has played there numerous times before, most famously in the World Cup final win against India in 2017.


“Anybody who has ever played cricket or wants to play the game knows what a place Lord’s is,” she added.


“For us to have the opportunity to possibly play a game there is massively exciting.


“It would certainly be fantastic to have a Lord’s lunch. That is for sure. It’s one of the best places in the world to have your lunch.”


For that to be achieved, it is wickets and runs Gunn and co must feast on over the next couple of months.


SQUAD


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


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