The Northern Diamonds lost a low-scoring thriller against defending champions Southern Vipers by three wickets with two balls remaining in today’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final at Northampton.
Ami Campbell starred with 60 off 73 balls to lead a memorable fightback from 116-8 to 184, only for the Vipers to recover their own chase from 109-7.
Beth Langston claimed two early wickets with the new ball, Katie Levick was outstanding with 1-20 from 10 overs and Jenny Gunn claimed three crucial wickets on her return from injury.
But Vipers eighth-wicket pair Emily Windsor and seamer Tara Norris, who united in the 35th over, struck the telling blow by sharing an unbroken 78.
Busy Windsor finished 47 not out off 97 and hit the winning runs off Langston in the last, while unbeaten Norris made a more belligerent 40 off 44.
Campbell’s second fifty of the summer, and her second in as many innings, proved the main contribution in a Diamonds score which was clearly under par but a superb effort considering the peril they had been in during the 36th over of the innings.
Having won the toss, Diamonds made a steady start - 34-0 from 10 overs and 68-1 after 20.
Unfortunately, Hollie Armitage’s side lost wickets in clusters twice to hamper their chances of posting around 250 on a pitch which was holding up.
Armitage, for 16, was the first wicket, bowled playing back at the seam of Paige Scholfield (35-1 in the 12th).
With Gunn playing for the first time in nearly three weeks following a calf injury, Rachel Hopkins missed out and Linsey Smith was elevated to open the batting.
The left-hander’s 31 off 65 balls proved the next best contribution behind Campbell.
Though Smith was the first of three wickets to fall for one run in nine balls as the innings slipped from comfort at 72-1 in the 21st to trouble at 73-4 in the 23rd.
She chipped Georgia Adams, the Vipers captain who finished with 4-35 from her 10 overs of off-spin, to cover before Leah Dobson was bowled advancing at the Vipers more recognised spinner Charlotte Taylor, who claimed six wickets in last year’s final at Edgbaston. Sterre Kalis was then trapped lbw by Adams for 18.
The ship was steadied by Bess Heath (25) and Campbell, who shared 39 in 11 overs before another costly collapse.
This time, the Diamonds four for four in two overs, falling from 112-4 to 116-8.
Heath was lbw to the left-arm seam of Norris, Gunn caught at mid-wicket off Adams, Langston trapped lbw by the same bowler later in the 35th over and Phoebe Graham bowled by Taylor (2-26 from 10).
But then came the super revival, led by Campbell, who attacked anything pitched up. But the most impressive thing was that she did not look to hog the strike or turn down singles at any stage.
She had complete faith in partners Levick and Rachel Slater, who contributed eight and six not out as the final 15 overs were all but used.
Campbell hit five fours and reached her fifty off 83 balls to follow the 76 she scored in Wednesday’s semi-final win over Central Sparks at Scarborough. They have been her highest scores of a personal summer which has kicked into life brilliantly during September.
She added 28 with ninth-wicket partner Levick and 39 for the last wicket with Slater, the joint highest partnership of the innings.
The Vipers were visibly frustrated before Georgia Elwiss wrapped things up with four balls remaining when Campbell holed out to long-off.
That frustration would have grown only two balls into their chase when Langston uprooted Adams’ off-stump, leaving the score at 0-1.
That become 6-2 in the third over when Langston flattened Ella McCaughan’s leg-stump.
England duo Maia Bouchier and Elwiss steadied the ship, including the former pulling Graham for six over deep square-leg as the score moved to 41-2 after 10 overs.
Graham then had Elwiss (14) caught behind - 47-3 in the 12th.
Bouchier, the 22-year-old who played her first T20 internationals earlier this month, was always going to be a key wicket. And the Diamonds claimed it when Heath stumped her for 33 off Levick’s leg-spin.
That left the Vipers at 62-4 in the 17th, a score which became 82-4 after 25.
But Gunn, with the first ball of her second spell, bowled Irish international Gaby Lewis through the gate for 24 - 93-5 in the 29th.
And there was further success around the corner, with the England World Cup winner striking twice with successive deliveries in the 35th over as the Vipers fell to 109-7.
Scholfield looped a drive into the covers, where Armitage took a stunning one-handed catch diving to her right, before Carla Rudd was trapped lbw first ball.
At that stage, Diamonds were favourites. But Windsor and Norris brought the game back into the balance, including taking 10 off a Graham over, as the score moved to 155-7 after 45.
From there, they were back in the box seat, with another 10 coming off Smith in the penultimate to leave only two needed off Langston.