Sarah Taylor is back. Pardon the pun, but you might say she is shining bright like a Diamond. And that is what every single person connected to English Cricket surely wants to see.
The England legend’s return to the professional game on Saturday following two years in retirement was hugely encouraging.
She demonstrated her genius behind the stumps with an almost flawless wicketkeeping display to help the Northern Diamonds to a nail biting Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy victory over South East Stars at Emerald Headingley.
Yes, she failed to hold onto a one-handed catch in the second over of the match. But it would have been a screamer.
The 32-year-old then only scored two with the bat in pursuit of 251.
But the most pleasing part, following a well documented mental health battle, was that it was clear to see she loved every minute.
“I’m really happy to be here,” she said. “They’re an amazing bunch of girls with a fighting spirit like you wouldn’t believe, which is what you saw (on Saturday). I’m very happy to be a part of it.
“I’ve got a nice balance. I’m working at school (Bede’s in Sussex), which is my main job, I’m coaching Sussex’s men. That is a learning curve and a good challenge.
“I hate to say it, but I don’t need cricket. I don’t need to play. Whereas before, I felt I needed to, and there’s a lot more pressure on that.
“I’m just enjoying the fact that I’m here and having fun. The Diamonds girls and the coaches are great to be around, so I can have fun with them.
“I have missed those wins. Let’s be honest, we were out of that game (70-5 chasing 251). We were absolutely out of it.
And it was the people who did it. Beth Langston is not known for her batting. It’s so nice. You absolutely adore them for it because you know how hard they work. She knows she’s good enough, and we all back her.
“Jenny Gunn was brilliant, and Sterre Kalis unreal. As a young player, she held the innings together.
“It’s so nice to be a part of a team that whatever position you’re in, you know you can still win.”
As Diamonds director of cricket James Carr said last week, Taylor’s short-term move to Emerald Headingley is a “win-win”.
It helps the Diamonds get through an availability crisis behind the stumps, with Lauren Winfield-Hill on international duty and Bess Heath injured.
It helps Taylor prepare for her commitments in the Hundred with the Welsh Fire next month.
“I’ve got to remember how it feels to go into bat and what I need to do pre-game to prepare to perform,” she said.
“We’ve got some T20s coming up, and it is going to be slightly different to the Hundred with the tactics and stuff. But I’ll still get miles in my legs, all the training and hopefully a bit of form with the gloves and the bat.
“The Diamonds have asked me if I could help out.
“Dani Hazell said, ‘Can you do us a favour, we need a keeper? It might be good practice for you before the Hundred’.
“Although they think I’m doing them a favour, they’re definitely doing me a favour by letting me play.”
As she says, Taylor will be available to the Diamonds for the early stages of the Regional T20 competition, starting a week on Saturday with a blockbuster ‘Roses’ clash with the Thunder at Headingley.
Taylor actually played one season with the Lancashire Thunder in the old Kia Super League in 2017, though missed the clash with the Yorkshire Diamonds at Headingley because of her sister Rebecca’s wedding.
“Oh yeah, I completely forgot about that!” she laughed.
“Everyone always talks so highly about Roses games.
“I have got a friend who has just moved to Manchester for the lads, Luke Wells, and he said, ‘You just don’t realise what the Roses game means to people’.
“It’s going to be so nice to be a part of it.
“That should be a very good game with a bit extra on it. The Thunder are a good young team.
“The wickets here are always amazing and the outfield is fast. It’s perfect for T20. Hopefully I will be slightly less rusty.”
Since last playing in the KSL for Surrey Stars in 2019, the face of English domestic women’s cricket has changed significantly, with the introduction of the regional structure and five full-time contracted players at each of the eight teams.
So, following Saturday’s snapshot of the new structure, how does Taylor view the difference in quality of cricket?
“The standard’s definitely gone up,” she added. “No doubt.
“With the amount of training the girls are doing, that is inevitable I guess.
“But you also have to take into account the pitches we are playing on. No offence to the pitches we were playing on before, they weren’t the standard we wanted.
“You come to Headingley, and you get one of the best pitches in the country. That has to play a part.”