Report: Thunder vs Northern Diamonds

Lauren Winfield-Hill struck a magnificent 93 as Northern Diamonds kicked off their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy campaign in style with a commanding six-wicket win over rivals Thunder at Sale.

Alongside Hollie Armitage, who hit 47, and Bess Heath, who struck an unbeaten 51, Winfield-Hill ensured the target of 236 was easily chased down with 46 balls remaining after Thunder had made 235-7.

Diamonds began the day well, making an early breakthrough when Georgie Boyce was trapped in front by Rachel Slater for six with the dismissal bringing the imposing figure of West Indian star and new Thunder signing Deandra Dottin to the crease.

Unsurprisingly, Dottin’s introduction saw the run-rate rise dramatically as the new arrival, only announced by Thunder last night, hit three successive boundaries off one Katherine Brunt over with Emma Lamb proving equally dominant at the other end.

The second-wicket pair had added 55 runs in just over seven overs when Dottin attempted one shot too many and skied a Katie Levick delivery to Leigh Kasperek at deep cover for an entertaining 26 off 27 balls.

From then on, it was all about Lamb, as the England international unleashed an array of attractive stroke play on her way to a fine half-century which saw her bring up 2,000 List A runs when she reached 62.

Along the way both Ellie Threlkeld (13) and Danielle Collins (18) offered valuable support until they were dismissed by the spin of excellent Linsey Smith and Kasperek respectively.

So comfortable had Lamb looked, it was something of a shock when she handed Smith her second wicket after she misjudged the flight of a full delivery and was bowled attempting a hit across the line for 82 off 80.

Lamb’s dismissal - at 154-4 in the 30th over - prompted a stalling of the run-rate, with Jenny Gunn’s accuracy adding to the economy of Diamond’s spin attack as Thunder struggled to hit the boundaries during the crucial middle overs.

But while the runs dried up, Shachi Pai and Daisy Mullan stood firm and added 31 for the sixth wicket until Mullan was brilliantly caught in the deep by Heath off Levick for 18.

Pai finished unbeaten on 41, and some eager running between the wickets took Thunder to a competitive total, with Levick (2-45) and Smith (2-34) the pick of the bowlers.

But, until well into the second half of Diamonds’ reply, the result of this game never looked in doubt despite the early departure of Smith for nine after she top-edged a pull shot to Laura Jackson.

The reason was Winfield-Hill, who utterly dominated Thunder’s bowling as she constructed a match-defining second-wicket partnership with Armitage, the pair sharing 116 in 17 overs to advance from 29-1 in the seventh.

A chanceless knock saw the England international stroke the ball around Sale’s small ground with finesse when needed and with power when required as Thunder’s attack wilted and their fielding became ragged.

The century partnership was eventually broken when Armitage’s late cut off Jackson found Hannah Jones at fly slip and she departed for 46 before Winfield-Hill fell soon after to the left-arm spin of Alex Hartley when she skied a drive to Georgie Boyce at long off for a brilliant 93.

When Yvonne Graves departed without scoring, bowled by Jones, Thunder had a glimmer of hope, but it was soon extinguished as Sterre Kalis (35*) and half-centurion Heath steered Diamonds home with an unbroken 75 stand.

The Diamonds are back in action on Saturday when they welcome Sunrisers to Headingley (10.30am).