Dani Hazell believes the hectic regional schedule can work in the Northern Diamonds favour as they bid to get “back on the horse” in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy this weekend.

The Diamonds play their third game in nine days on Saturday when second-placed Central Sparks visit Headingley (10.30am), with the defending champions having lost the previous two to dent their chances of back-to-back triumphs.

They were beaten by runaway leaders the Blaze at Chesterfield last Friday and then by Roses rivals Thunder at York on Tuesday.

It means they sit fourth in the table on 19 points after four wins and four defeats from eight games. With six still to play, they are level on points with third-placed South East Stars, who hold the final knockout qualifying place courtesy of a superior net run-rate.

Coach Hazell said: “It’s nice the games are coming thick and fast so we haven’t got time to dwell. 

“If you had a lot of days off, you’d be overthinking. Getting back on the horse can be a good thing, and that’s what we will be looking at to turn this around and get going in the right direction.”

The area for improvement is obvious. In the last two games, they have been bowled out for 185 and 167 batting first, leaving the bowlers with too much work to do.

“We know we didn’t put enough partnerships together with the bat,” said Hazell, referencing the most recent game against Thunder (167 all out) at York on Tuesday. “You can’t expect bowlers to be defending a total like that.

“Not enough runs and not enough partnerships, which we’ve talked about previously.

“It all comes back to us losing a few silly wickets, a few run outs which doesn’t help you and you kind of open the door and get yourself to 160 when it was a 240-250 pitch minimum.”

So far, the Diamonds have been heavily reliant on the stunning form of opener Lauren Winfield-Hill, who is the competition’s leading run-scorer with 425 from eight appearances.

Winfield-Hill has scored more than double the next most prolific batter on the Diamonds’ list, Bess Heath with 200, and she has reached 50 on four occasions including a century.

The rest of her team-mates combined have only reached fifty on four occasions through the first half of the competition.

There is bagfuls of talent in that Diamonds batting line-up. Unfortunately, they haven’t hit their straps yet as a unit. Now would be the ideal time to turn that around.

“Absolutely,” continued Hazell. “They’ve reflected on that as individuals and as a batting group. It’s nothing to be shied away from. 

“It’s clear the team that gets the most runs wins the game, and we just haven’t done that in the last couple of games.

“But it’s an opportunity to learn, and we have to put it right. We want to win games of cricket, and that’s how we’re going to go about it.”

Despite some recent disappointments, Hazell has looked on the bright side of things. 

She said: I think it’s all really close this year. That goes to show where regional cricket is now. 

“There are no runaway teams and equally no teams that are out of it. That’s healthy for the game. 

“I probably expected this year to be challenging, and that’s down to the fact that every region is getting better. That’s what they should be doing, and it’s an exciting time for the game.”

The former England off-spinning all-rounder also believes the ongoing thrilling women’s Ashes series can have a positive knock-on for the development of the regional game. 

England have come from 6-0 down to level the series at 6-6 with two ODIs remaining. The next fixture is at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Sunday afternoon.

“Every ODI is sold out for the women’s Ashes,” said Hazell. “It’s crazy, and it just shows how far it all has come.

“For the Ashes to still be alive is so exciting. It’s keeping people watching, it’s keeping people engrossed in the game, and that’s only going to help regional cricket as well. 

“It’s only going to keep it on the map and get more people who want to be involved in it. And that’s why, like I said, the game and the competition is in a really good place and it will continue to get better and better.”

Sparks are second in the table having won four from eight games, added to a tie and a No Result. They beat the South East Stars at Guildford on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, four more Diamonds players have been added to the Hundred squads in the final round of selections, which were announced earlier today.

Leah Dobson and Grace Hall have been signed up by the Northern Superchargers, while Beth Langston and Lizzie Scott will represent the defending champions Oval Invincibles.

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