Report: Central Sparks vs Northern Diamonds

Northern Diamonds eased their way to a third successive victory in the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy after beating Central Sparks by five wickets at New Road in Worcestershire.

This was a superb performance with both bat and ball as the Diamonds bowled tightly and fielded athletically on their way to restricting the hosts to what looked like a below par 214-6 off their 50 overs, despite an excellent 91 from Sparks skipper Eve Jones.

The visitors then quickly broke the back of the modest target thanks to a lightning start from Lauren Winfield-Hill and Linsey Smith who built an opening partnership of 74 in just over 15 overs.

Winfield-Hill’s 50 and skipper Hollie Armitage’s unbeaten 60 were the highlights of a dominant batting display, securing the victory with 10.4 overs remaining.

Earlier, off-spinner Emma Marlow excelled with 2-37 from 10 overs, and the youngster took the new ball.

Electing to bat first, Sparks got off to a steady if unspectacular start thanks to Jones and Stephanie Butler.

But, although the opening pair rarely looked threatened, they consistently found the fielders with their shots and struggled to hit boundaries – a problem that continued throughout the innings.

The openers had made 29 when Rachel Slater struck as Butler mistimed a drive straight to Leigh Kasperek for 12 bringing Thea Brooks to the crease.

Jones was beginning to look the part but her partners struggled to match her fluency with Brooks contributing just 14 to a second wicket partnership of 52 before she was trapped in front by Smith.

The pattern continued with Ami Campbell - she struggled to 16 off 35 balls against her former side - edging one behind to a sharp catch from Winfield-Hill off Marlow with the score 113-3 off 32.1 overs.

Jones, meanwhile, had registered her half-century and was looking odds on for a deserved century when she fell to another sharp piece of keeping from Winfield-Hill who whipped off the bails after the Sparks skipper had missed an attempted sweep with her toe just out of the crease. Kasperek was the wicket-taker.

Sparks were indebted to Abigail Freeborn for the remainder of their innings after the wicketkeeper injected some momentum towards the back end with an unbeaten 48, helping to take the home side to 214-6 after 50 overs.

Magnificent Marlow picked up her second wicket when Ria Fackrell was caught in the covers by Sterre Kalis for 10.]

After a great performance behind the sticks, Winfield-Hill continued her form with the bat as she put Diamonds in control with a quick-fire opening partnership with Smith before the latter was stumped in the 16th over off Hannah Baker for 25.

Winfield-Hill departed for 50 (55 balls, eight fours) soon afterwards when she mistimed a drive to Campbell off Baker but the momentum had been set and Sparks could do little to stop it as Armitage and Kalis continued what the England opener had started.

The third wicket pair built a brilliant partnership of 109 which all but won it for the Diamonds as Sparks’ heads began to drop in the sapping heat of the late afternoon.

There were some consolation wickets for the Sparks as Kalis fell for 46, Bess Heath was bowled second ball for nought by Georgia Davis and Phoebe Turner departed lbw to Grace Potts for six - 205-6 after 38.

But the experienced pair of skipper Armitage, who hit six fours in 63 balls, and Beth Langston saw Diamonds home.

The Diamonds are now joint top of the table on 13 points with Southern Vipers following this bonus-point success.

They face Lightning at Durham’s Riverside next Saturday in the final game before the break for the Hundred