Dani Hazell believes the Northern Diamonds are showing their versatility in covering the departure of star spinner Linsey Smith, who they will come up against in the colours of Southern Vipers in tomorrow’s crunch Charlotte Edwards Cup clash at Headingley (3.30pm).
Popular left-armer Smith ended her three-year, trophy-winning stay with the region last September to move closer to her Oxfordshire home. She claimed 49 wickets in blue across all cricket.
Her departure threatened to leave a big hole in the Diamonds bowling attack, but so far it hasn’t worked out that way thanks to some impressive performances from some young bowlers and overseas signing Chloe Tryon, who also bowls left-arm spin.
“Naturally, Linsey was always going to be a miss because she’s an all-round, good cricketer,” said coach Hazell. “We didn’t want her to go, but we understood the circumstances.
“But we’re looking forward to seeing her, and I’m sure she’s the same.
“I think we have covered her departure, although maybe we’ve gone down a slightly different track doing it this year.
“People would normally look at the Diamonds and say, ‘Loads of spinners, that dominates their attack’. But maybe it’s a bit more balanced this year. We have a lot of young seam options.
“So far, they’ve stood up. It won’t always go to plan, like against the Blaze, but we will continue to back them this year, next and the year after.”
Hazell was speaking ahead of the Diamonds penultimate group clash, from which a win would see them secure a top-three place in the group and qualify for Finals Day at New Road next Saturday.
On the back of four wins, the Diamonds lost against league leaders Blaze at the Riverside in Durham yesterday.
Fledgling seamers Abi Glen, Grace Hall, Lizzie Scott and Jess Woolston have all impressed this season.
“In this whole campaign, T20 and 50-over, I’m really proud of how our local and younger girls are doing – with bat and ball,” said Hazell.
“We’ve got a good crop of them, and they make it hard to select who to play. Jess Woolston does really well in the 50-over stuff and doesn’t get in this.
“Hopefully, if we keep backing them, that will pay off in the long run.”
As aforementioned, Glen is one of those. Against the Blaze yesterday, she struck twice in two balls to beat Kathryn Bryce and Michaela Kirk for pace and bowl them both.
Glen has been an ever-present for the Diamonds this summer in both formats, impressing with 11 wickets from 10 competitive matches.
After sporadic appearances last year, this has been the 22-year-old’s breakthrough campaign.
“It’s been really nice to join in this year properly,” said Glen. “Last year was disappointing being injured. But I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Leeds-born Glen has previously battled back from tearing both of her Anterior Cruciate Ligaments, and last year she had a stress fracture of the femur: “That wasn’t amazing,” she said with a wry smile.
“This year’s been lovely, to get into it, settle down and get into rhythm.”
A feature of Glen’s bowling is her change of pace through the middle of an innings, and that will be key to the Diamonds hopes of Charlotte Edwards success over the next week.
After the Vipers, it is cross-Pennine rivals Thunder on Wednesday.
“The Blaze was just one little knock-back. We’re still going for the title, and we’re four wins from five. There’s still a lot of confidence,” she continued.
“Two big games, and we’re looking forward to them.
“It would be amazing if we could win this competition. To actually actually be part of it would be very special.”
Hazell was in typically relaxed mood after yesterday’s six-wicket defeat against Blaze.
“One blip doesn’t make you a rubbish side,” she said, before laughing: “The Vipers – them lot again!
“We’re looking forward to it. We seem to bump into the Vipers in all these big games, and I’m sure it will be another good one. It’s always a good wicket at Headingley, and hopefully we can nail down our spot at Finals Day.”
The Vipers could overtake the Diamonds when they face Central Sparks at Edgbaston today. They are currently third and four points behind having only played four games – one fewer than the Diamonds.
Perhaps more importantly, the Diamonds are eight points clear of fourth-placed Thunder with both teams having 10 points to play for.
This is the second part of a T20 double header with Yorkshire’s men. They face Derbyshire from 11.30am in the Vitality Blast.