England star Lauren Winfield-Hill scored a stunning unbeaten 116 and claimed three catches behind the stumps as the Diamonds beat the South East Stars at Beckenham and then joked: “I reckon that was worth the drive.”

Winfield-Hill had to tackle the M25 at around midnight last night having been released from England’s T20I squad to play this Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy fixture on the outskirts of London.

Joke or otherwise, she was absolutely 100 percent correct. It was absolutely worth it.

She captained the side in the absence of Hollie Armitage, away on England A duty, and went beyond 50 for the ninth time in this competition since the start of last season, including two hundreds.

“I was chomping at the bit to play with not playing for England,” said the 32-year-old.

“I like playing games, and I don’t like over-training. I’m always really keen to play for the Diamonds, and it was important for me to make the effort given we were a bit depleted for this one.

“I was at Edgbaston last night and got down here at 1.30am this morning. I just wanted game time and to show that I’m ready if needed for England. I spoke to Jon Lewis (England coach) about it, and he was very good.”

Between the two sides, nine players were unavailable because of England commitments. The Stars were missing seven. So this seven-wicket win was a crucial one for the Diamonds, who have now won four of six matches. Approaching the halfway point of their title defence, they are in a very healthy position. 

“When both sides are missing players, it’s easy to not be up for those games as much,” said Winfield-Hill, who led the Diamonds pursuit of 206.

“But we turned out really well today, and we got a big and important win.

“We were patient in the first innings (Stars 205 all out), and then to get the job done as clinical as that in the chase was awesome.”

Grace Hall was the standout contributor with the ball, claiming 4-33 on her 50-over debut. Chloe Tryon then chipped in with an unbeaten 57 with the bat.

Winfield-Hill continued: “In the first innings, we had to hang in there. We knew it was a good wicket and there’d be a few that would get through the ring and go for boundaries.

“In that chase, it was more you were going to get yourself out. It was about not giving them a sniff. It was great to be out there with Chloe and to shake hands at the end.”

Winfield-Hill didn’t arrive at the ground until close to the toss. 

“It was all a bit carnage because I didn’t really have a warm-up. I said to Dani (Hazell), ‘Look, I’ll sleep as much as I can’ because I didn’t get to bed until 2am,” she explained.

“It was interesting because a lot of the girls I haven’t captained before. I was a little bit rusty in the mind in terms of that captaincy sharpness, and I haven’t kept for a while either. But I sometimes feel the less I do the better I am with that.”

This game was also notable for it being the first time all five of the Diamonds Academy graduates have played in the same senior fixture: Hall, Emma Marlow, Lizzie Scott, Phoebe Turner and Jess Woolston. 

“The youngsters have been exceptional for us the whole time,” said Winfield-Hill. 

“That’s one thing we’ve prided ourselves big time on at the Diamonds – how we’ve brought youth through and how much we’ve seen them come to life, express themselves and show that they belong.

“It was Gracie’s turn today, but we’ve seen it from Wooly (five wickets against Stars in May) in Scarborough. Someone like Scotty didn’t get the wickets today, but the bowling in partnerships was outstanding.”

On her own form, Winfield-Hill added: “It’s nice. I don’t really feel like I’ve drifted too far out of form for some time now. Sometimes you get runs and sometimes you don’t, but my mindset’s and preparation have been consistent. 

“This is an important format for us. We want to back up last year and do it again this. Form’s important, but results even more so.”

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