Hollie Armitage has paid tribute to the Northern Diamonds structure for helping to kick on the games of herself and prospective England team-mate Bess Heath.

The pair could, later this month, play together in England’s senior team as they are part of the squad for the first three T20s in New Zealand, starting on March 19.

Armitage and Heath have both starred in Diamonds colours during the last four years, having learnt their cricket coming through the systems at Yorkshire and Derbyshire respectively.

While Chesterfield-born Heath has already played twice for England’s senior team since last September – one ODI and one T20I – Huddersfield-born Diamonds captain Armitage is yet to debut but has impressed for England A at home and abroad.

And she has given a glowing reference to the current structure based out of Headingley for giving herself and Heath the platform to advance.

“It’s very exciting to be in the squad alongside Bess,” said the 26-year-old, on International Women’s Day.

“Bess has gone through and is a fully fledged England player on a development contract now. For her to be making her mark on the international stage is fantastic, and for me this is just the start.

Picture by Barrington Coombs – ECB via Getty Images. Bess Heath poses before her senior England debut last September. 

“And it’s a huge credit to the Northern Diamonds and the region to be able to produce and help players develop.

“It’s been a goal of Dani Hazell’s and going back to James Carr when he was the director of cricket – they’ve been very keen to produce England players as well as targeting trophies. And a lot of credit should go to them and all the other coaches.”

Armitage’s childhood dream is now on the verge of becoming reality, the all-rounder saying it will be a hugely proud moment if she is selected to play at either Nelson or Dunedin. 

If she does, the first people on her mind will be mum and dad, Jane and John.

“Definitely my family, and my parents in particular,” she said. “They are over the moon.

“My mum messaged me shortly after getting the call-up and said, ‘When you were 11-years-old and you’d be in the car, you would just keep saying that you wanted to play for England one day’.

“When she said that, it struck home that this has always been my dream.

Dani Hazell

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Hollie Armitage has heaped praise on coach Dani Hazell and the Diamonds structure for helping to develop two senior England cricketers. 

“Yes, I haven’t played yet, and I’ve only been named in a squad. I might still never play, you just don’t know. But I’m getting closer, and if it does happen then it will be a proud moment for mum and dad because they’ve supported me in everything that I’ve done.”

Armitage chuckled when asked if her parents were heading out to New Zealand: “No, no, they’ll be watching at home…along with the dog.”

Herself and Heath are already in camp with England, Armitage have stayed in New Zealand – apart from a short holiday in Australia – since just before Christmas having impressed for the Central Hinds in their domestic Super Smash T20 competition. 

Armitage helped the Hinds reach the final and, opening the batting, was the third leading run-scorer across the entire competition with 318, including a best of 78.

“I really enjoyed it with the Hinds,” she said. “Their girls were obviously very welcoming, and we had some success as a team by getting to the final.

“Thankfully, I was able to contribute. 

“I had a new role in the side, opening the batting.

Hollie Armitage

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com. Hollie Armitage bats for the Diamonds in last summer’s Charlotte Edwards T20 Cup. 

“I did that a few years back, but I got asked to do it again. And what helped was that I’m now in a position where I really trust my game, which is sometimes easier said than done. 

“I really enjoyed the freedom of opening the batting. 

“Jake (Jacob Oram), the head coach, was just telling me and all the girls, ‘Whatever you do in training, we want to see it out on the pitch’. He was never going to get angry at us doing something that we’d been practicing if it didn’t come off.

“That gave me the freedom to take on the powerplay and to explore some different things. I really enjoyed that.”

Playing with that freedom will certainly help her slot into this England senior environment, that being the exact mentality coach Jon Lewis and captain Heather Knight want their players to take on.

“When we went to Oman and India (A squad tour before Christmas), the messages being relaid to us were about taking the game on and being the one to get on the front foot first,” she added. 

“That game comes more naturally to some players than it does others, but I’ve worked out that it can look different for different batters as well. That was something I was working on in Oman and India. 

Hollie Armitage

Picture by Surjeet Yadav – ECB via Getty Images. Hollie Armitage on England A duty in India in December. 

“It looks different for the likes of myself and Bess, for example.

“I did find the conditions tricky to begin with in New Zealand. The pitches were a lot bouncier but also on the slower side.

“Being able to experience those conditions for a month was good for me leading into what’s to come.”

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