Brilliant performances from Linsey Smith and Hollie Armitage guided Northern Diamonds to a dominant seven-wicket win over Western Storm in our Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy clash at Emirates Riverside.
Smith was outstanding with the ball, claiming career-best figures in List A cricket with 5-34. Beth Langston notched two wickets on her return from injury, while Kate Levick also bagged two strikes. Due to their exploits the visitors were bowled out for 183, with skipper Sophie Luff top-scoring with 65.
The Diamonds were clinical in their chase led by Armitage, who played the anchor role to perfection. The skipper scored her half-century from 53 balls allowing the rest of the side to play with freedom. Armitage and Bess Heath were there at the end to secure the win with 18.5 overs to spare.
The Diamonds returned to Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy action for the first time since June with a strong record behind us. Langston returned to the fold for Armitage’s side after missing the last four Charlotte Edwards Cup games with a quad injury.
Armitage opted to bowl first at Emirates Riverside, and the home team only had to wait until the fifth over to make the breakthrough. The returning Langston bowled Storm opener Georgia Hennessy for five. Langston had to be patient for her second wicket as Fi Morris edged past the dive of Bess Heath behind the stumps. However, two balls later, Morris nicked one behind again and this time Heath claimed a regulation catch to dismiss the opener for 30.
The Diamonds were put on the back foot as Alex Griffiths and Luff responded with a partnership for the third wicket. Smith almost dismissed Griffiths on 19, but Phoebe Graham put down a tough chance with a dive at mid-off. Griffiths and Luff posted fifty in a rapid time, and the hosts were then dealt a further blow when Jenny Gunn was forced to leave the field after pulling up before her second over.
Smith was not deterred by the Storm’s attacking approach, and removed Griffiths, whose attempted cut resulted in a nick behind to Heath to fall for 36, ending a partnership worth 65 with Luff. The wicket sparked a collapse as Katie Levick combined with Smith to remove Danielle Gibson, Nat Wraith and Bethan Gammon without troubling the scorers. The Storm were reduced from 109-2 for 112-6, which almost became seven but an outside edge from Chloe Skelton just evaded first slip.
Luff was on form in the middle to prevent a Diamonds surge. The Storm skipper scored fifty from 57 balls, and shared another useful stand for the seventh wicket with Skelton. They put on 61 before Skelton was bowled by Smith. The left-armer spinner took control late in the innings to force another collapse in the Storm ranks, ending the innings by bowling Luff for 65 to finish with figures of 5-34.
Lauren Winfield-Hill and Armitage enjoyed a solid start to the Diamonds reply, scoring 24 off the first two overs of the innings. The Storm managed to rein in the hosts, and the introduction of Hennessy into the attack brought about the wicket of Winfield-Hill, who was pinned lbw for 16. Armitage held firm after the dismissal of her opening partner and ensured that the Diamonds were well ahead of the run rate, assisted by Sterre Kalis and the extras column.
Kalis upped the ante and took the attack to the spin of Morris. She dispatched two boundaries in the 15th over to bring up the fifty partnership from only 55 balls. A change of bowling at the Finchale End earned the Storm the breakthrough as Stephanie Hutchins removed Kalis for 32. Leah Dobson continued with the positive intent by scoring 16 from 19 balls before she was out lbw to Hutchins.
Armitage continued her excellent knock and recorded a classy fifty without having to break out of first gear. Heath provided impetus alongside the skipper with an unbeaten partnership of 54, allowing the Diamonds to ease over the line.