Katie Levick believes the increase to 10 group games in the Charlotte Edwards Cup is another important step in the right direction for the women’s game in England.

Levick, the Northern Diamonds star leg-spinner, has been speaking about the 2024 summer regional schedule, which was released this morning. 

Next season starts for the Diamonds with an eye-catching clash with arch-rivals Thunder at Durham in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy on Saturday 20 April.

But it is the increase in T20 fixtures which is the most eye-catching thing about next year.

The Charlotte Edwards Cup has been increased from seven group games to 10 and will feature a Finals Day including two semi-finals and a final. For the first three years of the competition, only three teams have qualified for that showpiece occasion. 

The Diamonds will play every region once and Thunder, Blaze and Central Sparks – their closest rivals geographically – twice. 

Northern Diamonds' Katie Levick is pictured celebrating dismissing Western Storm's Fran Wilson, at Headingley.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Katie Levick celebrates a wicket in the 2023 Charlotte Edwards Cup.

Levick is the Diamonds squad representative with the Professional Cricketers Association and thus gets involved in discussions about improvements and progression within the regional game.

And she said: “It’s something we’ve been pushing towards, and it’s actually been more of an emphasis than the pro contracts.

“We want the set-up to be in a good place before all of the regions go fully professional.

“We want the building blocks in place; a good fixture list, coaching staffs, strength and conditioning, facilities – all these things. This is another important step towards that. 

“We want to play more teams twice because we want to play the first game, see how it goes, build on it and come back again a few weeks later. That’s the real test.

“It’s the cricket we’ve grown up watching on the men’s side of things, and it’s something we’ve really wanted.

“Other things come into effect, like when you play certain teams. Do they lose their England players? 

“Sometimes it felt like your season could be determined by how your fixtures fell. That’s something you don’t want in pro sport. You want it based purely on performance, and this makes it more of a level playing field.”

Levick now feels that the regional format is in ideal shape and may not need resisting until all squads go fully pro.

“While you don’t have complete, full-time pro squads, I think we are at capacity in terms of the fixture list,” she said. 

“There’s a lot of chat about red ball games, and we’d love to see that. But it’s a hell of a commitment for a girl who is not full-time and is still working or at Uni alongside their cricket.”

And, of the standard of cricket, she added: “It’s in a great place. It’s lightyears away from where it was, and it’s been brilliant to see that the growth is there year on year.

“The standard of cricket has never been better at domestic level. You saw that last year with different teams getting to finals and Finals Days.”

On the season opener against Thunder, who will officially be known as Lancashire Thunder in 2024, Levick said: “It may not be the traditional Yorkshire-Lancashire rivalry, but Diamonds v Thunder is definitely a big northern derby and one we’re all excited about to start with.

“It should certainly get people fired up to want to kick our season off with a bang.

Thunder

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Diamonds and Thunder will go toe to toe to begin 2024.

“It will be a good test because Thunder have just had a good year after some tough results historically.

“We have Rebecca Duckworth and Sophia Turner on this side now, so it will be a big one for them because you always want to put in a performance against your old team to show them what they’re missing.”

The Diamonds are back in pre-season training, with Levick one of the players who have stayed at home to train. 

A number are currently abroad fulfilling different playing commitments, with coach Dani Hazell in Oman helping out with an England A training camp. Captain Hollie Armitage is on the same trip.

Hollie Armitage and Dani Hazell

Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com. Captain Hollie Armitage and coach Dani Hazell are both in Oman at present with England A.

“Training’s been good,” continued Levick. “We’re only a couple of weeks in, but we have got a core group of about 10 of us who are in together. It’s been nice to hit the ground running.

“It’s about putting in the hard yards now. Something we’ve spoken about is putting in all the effort now so that it pays off in the season. 

“When you’re running around the track or in the gym, you can sometimes forget that you are cricketers. So the fixtures coming out is a nice reminder that’s what you’re working towards.

“You look out for certain fixtures in the year to see how things are going to pan out with travel and such. It’s exciting.”

In the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, the top four teams qualify for two semi-finals ahead of the season-ending final at Leicestershire’s Uptonsteel County Ground, Grace Road on Saturday 21 September.

The CE Cup Finals Day is played well before that, on Saturday 22 June at Derbyshire’s Incora County Ground. That, as aforementioned, also features two semi-finals before an evening final.

Both competitions now feature four knockout qualifiers instead of three. 

During the second half of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint competition, the Diamonds face away trips to a trio of interesting outgrounds.

They face Western Storm at Cheltenham College on Sunday 7 July, The Blaze at Lindum the following Sunday and Thunder at Southport on Saturday 31 August.

“The little badger inside everyone, I’m sure, looks at the fixtures and picks out the venues they haven’t played at before. I like to do that,” said Levick, before reflecting on last season’s performances.

The Diamonds missed out on knockout cricket in both competitions.

She added: “Last season, we had a young squad in certain areas and while we talk about it being progressive, we were disappointed with how it ended. We were in a position to challenge for two trophies, and it was down to us that we didn’t get there.

“I don’t think we came across a team who we couldn’t have beaten. 

“There are things we can learn from, and hopefully we can kick on next year.”

“There were a few near misses. 

“The Blackpool one against Thunder really stung because we’d got ourselves into a position in the Charlotte Edwards where it was harder to not qualify than qualify and we still managed to get knocked out. 

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. New signing Sophia Turner (r) could face her old Thunder team-mates in April’s season opener.

“The Vipers one at South North after the Hundred in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint was disappointing. Hollie batted through and got her century, but we still didn’t manage to get over the line. 

“These are the one percenters which are disappointing on the day, but even more of a blow when you look back at the end of the season and realise how important they were.

“But the really good thing which Dani instills is that everything is an opportunity to learn. 

“If that’s the mentality we take forward, we’ll be in a good spot.”

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