Preview: Thunder v Northern Diamonds

Linsey Smith is hoping success with the Northern Diamonds in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy can ensure a happy ending to a recent injury “nightmare”.

Left-arm spinning all-rounder Smith sustained a injury to her spinning finger on her left-hand whilst playing for Melbourne Stars in Australia’s Big Bash competition in December.

What she initially thought was just a dislocation after a ball was smashed back at her in her follow through turned out to require surgery and a screw inserted.

The England fringe bowler has bowled through discomfort during the first half of the summer, claiming eight wickets in six Charlotte Edwards T20 matches, and has only just had the screw removed last week.

“It was a bit of nightmare,” said Smith, ahead of Sunday’s RHF Trophy opener against Thunder at Sale (10.30am).

“I was bowling (at the Big Bash) and one got hit back at me, which knocked the end of my finger.

“At the time, I thought it was just dislocated. The physio popped it back in and I carried on.

“A couple of weeks later, I got it x-rayed and it was a bit of a mess. So it went in a splint for eight weeks to see if that would heal. But when I came back to training in January, it was still pretty knackered. It needed a screw going in it, which I only had taken out last week.

“Hopefully the screw’s done the job and I have a fully working bowling finger now.

“It’s been quite uncomfortable and I’ve not been training and playing warm-up games as much I’d have liked. I was still happy I could get out on the pitch and do my best for the team in the Charlotte Edwards.”

Smith opened the bowling or bowled in the powerplay for the Diamonds as they narrowly missed out on Finals Day in the CE Cup, winning three and losing three of their six group games.

“I’ve actually been a bit disappointed with how I’ve bowled personally in the powerplay,” she said. “I feel I could have bowled a bit better at that stage of the game. I actually think I bowled better through the middle of the innings.

By her own admission, Smith’s personal performances reflected those of the Diamonds as a team.

“It was a bit of a mixed bag. We did some good stuff and other bits which weren’t up to the mark,” she said.

“We’re looking forward to going again after a little break to try a push for a spot at Lord’s. To do that, we’ll need to put all three areas of the game together and play some good cricket.

“We have shown that we are a very good side, especially in this 50-over competition - even though we haven’t quite been able to get over the line and win a trophy.

“That hunger is still very much there, and we’re desperate to push and finally get our hands on this trophy.”

After being beaten in the last two Rachael Heyhoe Flint finals by Southern Vipers, the Diamonds will begin their bid to go one better against their arch-rivals.

Lauren Winfield-Hill has recovered from the quad injury she suffered in the 20-over defeat against Thunder at Sale on May 18, while it is hoped recently retired Test England bowler Katherine Brunt will be available to play.

Both sides shared a T20 victory apiece earlier this season. Thunder won the game at Sale before Diamonds hit back to win the return clash at Headingley.

Katie Levick claimed a superb 4-22 as Thunder stumbled from 95-0 to 148-7 before the Diamonds were bowled out for 92.

“It was obviously a tough game for us,” said Smith. “We didn’t hit the mark in the powerplay with the ball, and they put together a really good opening partnership.

“Yes, it was disappointing. But we showed our fight to peg them back after a good start and took a lot of wickets at the back end. We were able to take heart from that, despite it not working out with the bat.

“It showed that, as a bowling unit, we can really close teams down.

“Hopefully we can put pressure on them right from the get go this time.”

Smith’s value to the Diamonds extends way beyond her bowling. An impressive fielder, she has also contributed importantly with the bat.

In the Headingley win over Thunder, she hit a crucial 25 from number four to push the total up to 124 all out, which was comfortably defended.

And, of course, in her last 50-over appearance - last season’s final against Vipers at Northampton - she hit 31 opening the batting.

“I’d been nagging Dani (Hazell) to get me up the order before that final,” she added. “But it wasn’t until she told me the night before that I thought, ‘Oh, it’s actually happening now’. But it was really good fun.

“That Dani and all the girls backed me to do it gave me a lot of confidence.

“I love batting and have a lot more confidence from playing in different situations over the years.”

Each team plays the other seven regions once through the group stage. The top team advances to the final at Lord’s on September 25. The second and third teams play off four days earlier in an effective semi-final.

Squad: Hollie Armitage, Katherine Brunt, Yvonne Graves, Jenny Gunn, Bess Heath, Rachel Hopkins, Sterre Kalis, Leigh Kasperek, Katie Levick, Emma Marlow, Linsey Smith, Rachel Slater, Lauren Winfield-Hill.