The Northern Diamonds are “full steam ahead” for the resumption of their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy title defence this weekend, says director of cricket James Carr.
The Diamonds are encouragingly placed third in the table with three wins from five games so far, and next up are the South East Stars at Beckenham on Sunday (10.30am).
It’s the first game in the competition since early May because of the break for the Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 block, which ended disappointingly for the Diamonds with three successive defeats at the start of this month as they fell out of Finals Day contention.
“We have to move on from it. We can’t dwell on it too much,” said Carr.
“Obviously the coaching staff will look at it forensically when the time’s right, but we have five big 50-over games in front of us in effectively three weeks before the Hundred.
“It’s full steam ahead.”
On the end of the CE Cup, Carr said: “The competition is super strong.
“We got off to a flyer, but the likes of Thunder were perfectly entitled to go on a run like we did at the beginning with our four wins.
“I also think we played some really brave and courageous cricket at the start, and maybe that was our downfall as well at the end. We maybe just overplayed it slightly.
“But what we’ve done is remain competitive with a group of young players who have put in some really encouraging performances. That was great to see.
“We’ve always said that 50-over cricket is our strongest format, and that we’re looking to get better in T20s. I think we’ve moved forward in T20 despite not making the finals.”
Ironically, the Diamonds’ last RHF Trophy game was against the Stars at Scarborough on May 10, when they won by three wickets. Seamer Jess Woolston claimed a maiden five-wicket haul that day.
Over the last week, the Diamonds have played a couple of friendly fixtures, with Dutch international Sterre Kalis scoring centuries in both. Her latest was 106 in Monday’s win over the Yorkshire Cricket College at Harrogate when she underpinned a total of 385-6 batting first.
“I’d expect nothing less from Sterre to rack up some big runs on good batting pitches. But I just hope she’s not spent all her runs up too soon,” laughed Carr.
“We sit three wins from five in this competition. We’ve had a couple of blips in this against the Sparks and the Blaze, but that comes with Dani (Hazell, coach) being courageous in giving girls opportunity.
“We’ll always be competitive and go toe to toe with teams, but you have to take some of the bumps that comes with producing talent.
“Look, these young girls have had exposure. We won the Heyhoe Flint Trophy last year with Lizzie Scott, Emma Marlow, Phoebe Turner and Leah Dobson. Jess Woolston also played a game. But it’s a bit different when there’s 14 games. There’s no hiding.
“There’s additional rigours that go with that, travelling, playing etc. But they’re doing really well.”
There remains a number of a availability question marks given the involvement of Lauren Winfield-Hill, captain Hollie Armitage and Bess Heath in the England senior and A squads for ongoing series against Australia and Australia A this weekend.
The Diamonds management are expecting some players to be released for Sunday’s round of regional fixtures, but they’re just not sure who.
If all three are unavailable, Chloe Tryon will captain and Academy wicketkeeper Ellie Nightingale will make her debut.
The Stars have got seven players involved across both England squads.
“We’re delighted that we’re able to provide players for England honours. We want to help make that pathway strong and long. If we can do that, we’re doing our job,” said Carr.
The Diamonds’ Scottish off-spinner Katherine Fraser, meanwhile, is sidelined through injury.
One of the standout performers for the Diamonds in T20 cricket was seamer Grace Hall, the 20-year-old Academy graduate who claimed an impressive 10 Charlotte Edwards wickets.
She played her first seven senior regional appearances in that competition and is in contention to make her 50-over debut against a Stars side who are second in the table with three wins from five games and 15 points – one point more than the Diamonds.
“This is a format Grace can definitely enjoy,” added Carr.
“She can open the bowling, pitch it up and swing it away.
“She can then bowl the middle overs and use her variations with the keeper up to the stumps. Equally at the death, she can bowl her variations with the field set, and she’s got that low arm.
“She’s raw and learning, and she’ll tell you that herself. But she’s an infectious character who really wants to learn and develop. And, my god, she gives it everything in the field and with the bat as well.”