Ami Campbell feels like she has taken “hit after hit after hit” over the last few months. But now the Northern Diamonds batter has every chance of landing the knockout blow herself.
Newcastle-born Campbell struggled for early season form before spending the opening stages of the Hundred on the sidelines with the Northern Superchargers. Then, towards the back end of that competition, she contracted Coronavirus.
On Sunday, the left-hander played her first game since July 10 and hit a season’s best 48 in a Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy win for the Diamonds against Thunder at Durham.
It was a victory which put the Diamonds top of the table and set up a mouthwatering final group game tomorrow against second-placed Southern Vipers at the Ageas Bowl (10.30am).
The two sides are level on 23 points, separated by only net run-rate. Central Sparks are third on 22.
Both Diamonds and Vipers know a bonus point win will qualify them directly for the final at Northampton next Saturday, while the strength of the Diamonds’ run-rate means a four-point win will likely do the trick even if Sparks win with a bonus point against Lightning.
A tie at the Ageas and a Sparks win would see them advance to the final and Diamonds and Vipers meet again on Wednesday in the semi-final eliminator.
If the Diamonds end up with a home tie in the eliminator for finishing second in the group, it would likely be at Scarborough.
Campbell, 30, said: “I was quite poorly (with Covid) and was a good five days in bed. I lost my smell and taste, got headaches.
“I had 10 days in isolation and another two weeks not playing. It was heartbreaking, especially when you’ve not a had a great start to the season.
“The Hundred knocked me massively confidence wise because I didn’t get selected. When I could have potentially got selected at the end, that’s when I got Covid.
“It was almost like hit after hit after hit.
“If I didn’t really want to do well with my cricket, I think that would have tipped me over the edge and I’d have cut the season short and taken a break. But I’m desperate to do well and was willing to do anything to get back.
“I’m a big believer that things will fall into place at the right time. Fingers crossed, Sunday was the start of things turning for me.”
Geographically, the obvious regional rivalry comes between the Diamonds and the Lancashire based Thunder.
But Campbell said: “I would 100 percent say there’s a real fight developing between us and the Vipers.”
The Vipers are the defending champions of the RHF Trophy having beaten the Diamonds in last September’s final at Edgbaston.
The Diamonds then got one back on them earlier this month when they won the Charlotte Edwards (T20) Cup semi-final before being beaten in the final by South East Stars.
“Personally, I have a real want to beat the Vipers because that final last year hurt a lot,” Campbell continued. “We had our chances to win that game, and it left a sour taste.
“We have beaten them in the last couple of weeks in the T20, and we are more than capable of doing it in this competition because I believe we are a stronger 50-over team than in T20.
“We are a very good T20 team, but I think our batters feel a lot more comfortable going out in a 50-over game when you’ve got a lot more time to get in.
“T20, it doesn’t matter who is the best, there is more risk involved. In 50-over cricket, it’s a bit more skill in that sense.
“We are a very skilful team with some patient batters.
“Even the bigger hitting players like Bess Heath, myself, 50-over cricket gives us more time to get in and hit the big shots off the bad balls rather than forcing it early in T20.
“We are obviously a very, very good bowling side.
“We feel ready and confident.”
Sunday’s performance against Thunder at Durham was superb.
Campbell’s innings supplemented half-centuries for Sterre Kalis (57), Bess Heath (78) and Beth Langston (57) to post 294-6. The visiting reply was then limited to 189-8 - Katie Levick claimed 4-34.
Campbell added: “That’s how we play when we’re at our best. The team’s feeling really strong at the moment. Everything’s working well.”