Rachel Slater may have been watching the Northern Diamonds from afar this summer, but the left-arm seamer likes what she’s seen. 

Scotland star Slater has been busy helping her country qualify for the T20 World Cup later this year, starting her season in style with 11 wickets in six appearances out in Abu Dhabi at the ICC’s Global Qualifiers competition.

In the meantime, the Diamonds have been busy winning four of their first six 50-over matches of the summer. 

Now, Slater, 22, is back on home soil ready to contribute to her region, starting on Sunday when they open their Charlotte Edwards (T20) Cup campaign against arch-rivals Lancashire Thunder at Emirates Old Trafford (1pm).

“It’s been great to see,” she said. “I watched most of the games that didn’t clash with the Scotland stuff.

“It’s been a really positive start with contributions from a load of different people, and I think it’s a massive, massive thing that you can have a lot of close games and come out on the right side of them, especially at this point in the season. 

Rachel Slater

Picture by Francois Nel – ICC via Getty Images. Rachel Slater on Scotland duty in Abu Dhabi recently.

“That will be a positive thing we can take forwards and hopefully continue for the rest of the season.

“A lot of that is down to Hollie (Armitage, captain) and the rest of the staff. It’s testament to the environment they’ve created.

“Obviously, Hollie bowled that last over against the Sparks to get us over the line. She was the calmest person on the pitch, and she always is to be fair. 

“She’s a great captain, and that calmness always helps in the tight situations.

“The environment we have here at Diamonds, we really trust each other and back each other – and we’re always in the game.

“As I say, that’s a really good trait to have in a group.”

Rachel Slater

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Rachel Slater models the Diamonds new T20 kit for 2024.

Should selection go in her favour, Slater will make her first appearance for the Diamonds since last July, a game in which she didn’t actually take to the field as rain ruined their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy clash with Southern Vipers at Arundel.

Because of injury and time away from the game, that was the only regional fixture Slater played in 2023. 

Her last bowl in a Diamonds match was against Western Storm at Taunton in September 2022.

It was no surprise to hear the excitement in her voice as she discussed a T20 campaign which runs through until the end of July.

“I can’t wait to get stuck in,” she said. 

“I’ve had a good start to the summer with Scotland, but I want to keep going and bring that to the Diamonds – to put in big performances consistently.

Sophia Turner

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Former Thunder fast bowler Sophia Turner (second from right) celebrates a wicket at Durham last month when Diamonds beat Thunder in the RHF Trophy.

“I don’t think I’ve done that as well as I could have done so far in a Diamonds shirt. But hopefully this will be my season to do that. 

“I’ve been with Diamonds for a while now, and I love being a part of this team. I love playing for them. Any time I get to play is amazing, playing with your mates.

“I’m really excited to do that and help us win some trophies.”

Leeds-raised Slater continued: “It’s a huge few weeks. It always seems to come and go really quick, the T20 block. You have to be switched on from the start. 

“I can’t wait, and hopefully we can hit the ground running.

“We had a bit of a disappointing T20 campaign in the end last year, so we’ll be looking to put that right.”

Erin Burns

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Erin Burns is unavailable for this fixture.

That disappointing end last season saw Diamonds lose their final group game against Thunder at Blackpool last June to miss out on Finals Day qualification. They were bowled out for 97 batting first as Thunder advanced instead and were beaten semi-finalists at New Road.

That came after the Diamonds had won their first four games of the competition before letting a position of strength slip.

Have the Diamonds got a score to settle because of that Blackpool defeat? 

“I don’t think we’ll be thinking too much about that,” said Slater. “We’ll be focusing on what we can do on Sunday and how we’re going to win the game. 

“Thunder are a good team, and anything can happen in T20 cricket.”

Diamonds have already beaten Thunder this summer, on the opening day of the RHF Trophy at Durham in April, and they have had the better of this ‘Roses’ rivalry across the last four-and-a-bit-seasons.

Old Trafford

Picture by Ashley Allen – ECB via Getty Images. Diamonds make their first trip to Emirates Old Trafford.

This will actually be the first time the two regions have met in a match at Emirates Old Trafford, where Lancashire are hoping for a bumper crowd. They are selling tickets at £5 per adult and £1 for juniors as they bid to showcase the game to regular cricket fans and first-time visitors. 

They have entitled the day #BatForWomensCricket.

“Our first ever game at Old Trafford, that’s really exciting,” added Slater. 

“It’s always a great game against them, and it’s the one we look out for in the calendar. 

“Diamonds v Thunder is always a big rivalry.

“If we can get an early win on the board, on the back of the start to the season we’ve had already, that will give us even more confidence.”

Georgia Voll

Picture by Steve Bell/Getty Images. Thunder’s new overseas signing Georgia Voll played alongside Lauren Winfield-Hill for Queensland Fire this winter.

Thunder have had a disappointing start to the season under new coach Chris Read. They have only two of their six 50-over matches.

They will hand a debut to Australian batting all-rounder Georgia Voll.

The Diamonds, meanwhile, will be without their own Aussie for this fixture, all-rounder Erin Burns having returned home briefly to attend the wedding of a close friend.

She is due to return in time to face Blaze at Trent Bridge on Thursday. 

It would not be a surprise to see Bess Heath play at either Old Trafford or Headingley on Sunday, where England face Pakistan in the third and final IT20 of that series, also a 1pm start.

Should Heath not be required at Headingley, she could in theory make the trip across the M62. 

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