Hollie Armitage says excitement and confidence is building within the Northern Diamonds squad as the summer approaches.
With snow falling around the UK, the new summer feels a long way away. But it will be here before you know it, the Diamonds starting 2024 against Thunder in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy at Durham on Saturday April 20.
Captain Armitage has escaped the cold snap, the batting all-rounder currently in New Zealand enjoying an excellent T20 Super Smash competition with the Central Hinds.
The England A star has helped the Hinds qualify for the finals next week with four wins from nine matches. They still have one group match to play on Friday.
But, back home at Headingley, the hard work continues for her team-mates as they look to push on from a progressive season in 2023 when there were no trophies but plenty of encouraging signs for a developing squad.
“From previous years, we weren’t as successful in terms of winning trophies last year,” said Armitage, 26.
“But what we’re creating at the Diamonds is really exciting. The contracted girls and those on pay-to-play contracts, we have some really good depth in our squad.
“The way the girls are shaping up, it’s putting us in really good stead to have a good, competitive season. Hopefully the individual performances and the results can relate to the hard work the girls have been putting in through the winter.”
It has been a busy winter for Huddersfield’s Armitage.
Through November into December, she toured Oman and India with England’s A squad. She had a brief time at home before travelling to New Zealand just before Christmas.
The Oman leg of the England A tour was more of a training camp before the squad headed to Mumbai at the end of November to play a trio of T20 internationals against their Indian counterparts.
England won the series 2-1, with Armitage posting scores of 52, 13 and 27.
“Having the opportunity to go over to Oman and India was a brilliant learning experience for me,” she said.
“I was able to spend time with other players, other coaches and see my game move forwards, and playing a lot more cricket, my game has developed a lot.”
In terms of what she worked on in Oman to progress her game, she continued: “The theme through a lot of women’s cricket is playing against spin, which we did a lot of in Oman.
“For me, it’s being able to dominate spin in the middle overs. That’s a theme we have with the Diamonds, a theme with England as well.”
Armitage has enjoyed an impressive couple of years in all cricket, be it with the Diamonds, England A, the Northern Superchargers and now the Central Hinds.
She is clearly highly rated within the England set-up, but she is refusing to get carried away with thoughts of progression through to their senior set-up.
“I can only control the things I can control,” she said.
“Selection is for people higher up.
“I obviously have ambitions to play for England, but I just have to keep doing what I’m doing to make my game better and the rest will either happen or it won’t.”
Armitage captained England A in the final T20 in India, taking over the reins from Charlie Dean, who did not play in the series decider.
A lot of the cricket Armitage currently plays is as a captain – she has that role with both the Diamonds and the Superchargers.
But she doesn’t necessarily have to have that job to be a leader.
She isn’t captaining the Central Districts in New Zealand at present, yet she will be one of their more experienced players.
“In a lot of teams that I play in, I will come across as an experienced batter because I’ve played a lot of cricket,” she said. “And I really enjoy that role because I understand my game a lot now.
“Having that understanding is exciting, and hopefully I can contribute to match-winning performances for all the teams I play in.”
That is exactly what she is doing with the Hinds. Her haul of 215 runs from seven matches is the fourth best in the entire competition, and she has only failed to reach 20 once.
“As a batter, your job is to score runs,” Armitage added. “To be able to do that as consistently as possible is what I’m targeting for the rest of my career.
“It just proves that all the hard work you do in training, preparing for the pressure situations, it’s all worthwhile.”
The Hinds finished bottom of last year’s competition with only one win in 10 matches.
This year, they will finish second behind league winners Wellington Blaze.
The top three teams qualify for the finals. Wellington will advance directly to the final on January 28, while the second and third-placed teams face off in an Eliminator.
Armitage and co are already assured of being in that fixture (January 26), with Otago, Canterbury and Auckland all in the running to meet them.