It’s ‘Roses’ week, and the Northern Diamonds and the Thunder won’t be agreeing on much when they face each other in the Regional T20 opener at Emerald Headingley on Saturday afternoon!
But one thing the arch rivals have found common ground on is the introduction of red ball games at domestic level.
On the back of England’s enthralling Test Match against India, Thunder captain Alex Hartley has suggested that a one-off red ball game could be introduced in the Regional summer schedule as almost a showcase fixture.
“I would 100 percent be in favour of playing a one-off red ball game against your rivals each year,” said Hartley.
“So Thunder would play Diamonds, Storm v Vipers, Sparks v Lightning, etc. I think that would be class, and the girls would love the opportunity.”
And Diamonds coach Dani Hazell, a former team-mate of Hartley’s, said: “It’s certainly a suggestion I would agree with.
“If that format is played at the higher level, it’s our job at domestic level to produce people who are ready to play.
“It can’t be a shock to the system when all of a sudden there’s a Test Match played and no one has had any experience.
“If all countries are pushing for that to be played more, it’s our job to support it.
“Maybe you could trial it with one game next season and then move from there.
“That Test Match was a good advert for the game. It was played in a positive way, and I think that will make people want to play it at regional level as well.
“There was a lot of talk around the pitch with it being a used one. But there was a lot of positives. The shining light of Shafali Verma was the obvious one.
“I think it should be played more. It’s the purest form of the game where your technique and mental strength is tested to its maximum.”
On more immediate matters, Hazell is preparing the Diamonds for Saturday’s Regional T20 opener against a Thunder side who have had an encouraging summer so far.
While the Diamonds have won three of four 50-over games to sit top of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy table, the Thunder have won two of four.
Coached by Yorkshireman Paul Shaw, they are a young squad aiming to develop. Title wins are not their main focus.
One of those two wins came last time out against the previously unbeaten Central Sparks.
“Both sides have had a good start to the year. But I think, looking at everybody, the standard has jumped up this year,” said Hazell, a former Lancashire Thunder captain in the days of the old Kia Super League.
“It’s shown that people are making the most of the move to professional contracts and being able to train more.
“Thunder are probably the most improved team this year.
“It shows they’ve put a lot of work into the winter, and Paul Shaw has done a good job with a young squad.
“It’s a double header at Headingley, and it will be a good game and a great spectacle. We’re looking forward to it. Nice change of format, T20’s always a bit of fun.”