The Northern Diamonds are into Saturday’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final having confidently chased 176 to win their semi-final eliminator clash with Central Sparks at Scarborough by six wickets.
The Diamonds will face defending champions Southern Vipers at Northampton, a repeat of last season’s final, after Ami Campbell picked the perfect time to score her first half-century of the season - a superb 76 off 78 balls with three sixes.
The Sparks elected to bat on a dewy morning and posted 175-7 thanks to 42 apiece from Gwen Davies and Ria Fackrell in rearguard fashion. Beth Langston, Rachel Slater and Linsey Smith claimed two wickets apiece as the Sparks fell to 98-6 before recovering.
Campbell then shared 116 for the fourth wicket unbeaten with Sterre Kalis, who made 42 not out as they led the Diamonds into their third successive final at the start of the regional era with 17.1 overs remaining.
Sparks slipped to 2-2 inside the first nine balls of the match.
Opener Marie Kelly was trapped lbw for a golden duck by Langston before Davina Perrin clipped Slater’s left-arm seam to square-leg.
When in-form captain Eve Jones miscued a cut at Slater to point to fall for only nine in the 10th over, the Midlanders were in trouble at 35-3.
And things were not about to get easier for them, with left-arm spinner Smith striking twice in three balls in the 17th - 68-5. Thea Brookes got a leading edge to mid-on before Issy Wong, as Kelly had been earlier, was trapped lbw for a golden duck.
Davies, one of three former Yorkshire Diamonds from the Kia Super League days in the Sparks’ side, kick-started a recovery.
But there was still plenty of work to be done when Langston had her lbw playing to leg as the score fell to 98-6 in the 29th. That would soon become 101-7 in the 32nd when the excellent Katie Levick (1-25 from 10 overs) had Chloe Hill caught at mid-on.
However, that brought Fackrell and contracted fast bowler Emily Arlott, who made 29, together for an unbroken 74 partnership.
They batted calmly during the final 18.5 overs of the innings, understandably only showing any desire to accelerate inside the last five overs.
The Diamonds, who had been clinical with the ball and in the field for the majority of the innings, dropped a couple of late catches. But they were not costly.
Diamonds captain Hollie Armitage crashed five boundaries in her first nine balls on the way to a brisk 25, only to fall caught at mid-on off the off-spin of Georgia Davis - 33-1 in the sixth over of the chase.
England fringe seamer Arlott then had Rachel Hopkins caught behind and bowled Leah Dobson as the score fell to 42-3 after nine overs.
But Kalis and Campbell ensured there were no further dramas.
While Kalis was happy to play the steadying role in the Scarborough sunshine, Campbell was more expansive.
She hoisted Clare Boycott’s medium pace for a straight six and was particularly proficient through the covers.
Despite expertly playing the supporting role, Dutch international Kalis provided moments of class.
She also cleared the rope at the Trafalgar Square End of North Marine Road off the spin of Davis as the score moved to 111-3 after 23 overs.
Campbell hit three sixes in all - down the ground or pulled - reaching her fifty off 51 balls before only falling to Kelly with victory all but secured.
While Diamonds lost last season’s RHFT final at Edgbaston, they beat them in the semi-final of the Charlotte Edwards T20 Cup earlier this month.