In-form Katie Levick and the Northern Diamonds are relishing a pivotal fixture in their bid for Charlotte Edwards Cup glory, with league leaders the Blaze visiting the Seat Unique Riverside in Durham tomorrow (2.30pm).
The Diamonds and the Blaze are leading the pack with four wins from four so far in the seven-game group stage, which sees the top three places secure Finals Day qualification on June 10.
The Diamonds, on 17 points – a point behind the Blaze, are very much on course for that. They need just one win from their remaining three games to secure a place at Finals Day.
But they are desperate to simplify their task by finish top of the group.
If they do that, they will qualify directly for the early evening final at New Road a week on Saturday rather than having to play in the effective semi-final earlier in the day.
“We’ve seen how important getting straight into that final can be,” said leg-spinner Levick.
“Both teams who’ve won this competition so far (South East Stars in 2021 and Southern Vipers last year) have got straight through to that final.
“It’s a tough ask to win back-to-back games on the day. It can be done, of course, but you want to make it as easy as possible.
“We showed with the Heyhoe Flint stuff last year just what winning all your games and getting through top can do. It puts you in such a confident place.”
Levick will hope that victory in the North East continues what has been quite the week for the Sheffield-born star.
She claimed a brilliant 5-19 in Sunday’s win over Sunrisers at Headingley before travelling down to Wembley on her day off on Monday to watch her beloved Sheffield Wednesday win promotion to the Championship via the League One play-off final victory over local rivals Barnsley.
Levick sits atop of the wickets taken list in this season’s Charlotte Edwards Cup with nine, adding to the 10 she has taken so far in the 2023 Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. No bowler has taken more wickets in regional cricket this summer.
“In all the games so far, I’ve been the one building some pressure,” she said. “It was nice to turn the roles (against Sunrisers) and be the one who picked up the wickets.
“But you don’t pick up wickets on your own in this game. Bowling’s as much about partnerships just as batting is.
“Lizzie Scott is probably not going to get the headlines she deserves because she’s only picked up a couple of wickets. But she’s been going for so few runs.
“I think she’s gone for 11 in her first three overs in each of the last three games. To do that in the powerplay is something special.
“She’s only a handful of games into her regional career, and she’s keeping the pressure on. It’s already job done half done.
“As a bowling unit, we know we can turn to anyone and someone is always picking up wickets.
“Hollie (Armitage, captain) is good at change-ups and mixing the bowlers up, not allowing the batters to get settled.”
Despite going four wins from four, Levick said: “We don’t want to stand still, and we always want to progress.
“We’re probably yet to put in a full team performance. Someone has always stepped up and been the one. But when we put it all together, it could be frightening.
“We don’t want to rest on our laurels. We want to be the ones setting the standards. Dani (Hazell, coach) is good at that, not letting us settle.”
The Diamonds have a score to settle having been beaten by the Blaze in the RHF Trophy at Durham at the start of May, losing by four wickets having been bowled out for 62.
The Blaze are so far unbeaten in all competitions this season – the only unbeaten side in all English domestic cricket in 2023.
“It’s going to be a tough game, there’s no doubt about that,” added Levick. “They got the better of us the last time we played, and that was at Durham as well.
“They have that one up on us, and they’re going great guns as well. They’re unbeaten in both competitions, and they’re the ones you want to beat.
“Going into that four from four is where we wanted to be. It’s going to be a tough week against Blaze and Vipers, but we’re high on confidence and want to keep the ball rolling.”
This fixture is part of a T20 double header with Durham’s men at the Riverside. They face Lancashire Lightning in the Vitality Blast at 6.30pm.