New kid on the block Grace Hall is loving life in the thick of the Northern Diamonds’ bid for silverware.
Hall is enjoying quite the debut season in senior regional cricket.
The 20-year-old seamer from York claimed 10 wickets in her first seven appearances in the Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 campaign, including a best of 3-20 in a win over the South East Stars at the Kia Oval at the end of May.
Unfortunately, it didn’t contribute to success as the Diamonds missed out on a place at Finals Day.
However, on Sunday, Hall terrorised the same opponents with 4-33 in a Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy win at Beckenham, and hopefully this one will pave the way for some success.
There is plenty of work to be done, of course. We’re only just reaching the halfway point in the competition, after all. But the signs are looking positive.
The Diamonds have won four out of six games so far and sit second in the table with 19 points. They are four behind leaders the Blaze and four ahead of Stars and Central Sparks, who both have 15 points in third and fourth place.
The top three teams qualify for knockout cricket, while the top team after 14 group games advances directly to the late September final at Northampton.
It means that the Diamonds’ next fixture, against the Blaze at Chesterfield on Friday (10.30am), is a key one.
“It’s a big game again, and they’re up top. It was a great win for us against the Stars, but we’ll refresh and start again,” said Hall.
“It’s our first away game against the Blaze, so hopefully we can turn them over on their patch.”
The Diamonds have a score to settle having been beaten twice by the Blaze this season, once in both competitions – both of them coming at Durham.
Hall continued: “I’m really enjoying where we’re at. It’s so good. We’re all a big group of mates getting to play together.
“We’ve bonded so well as a team, even more so as the season’s gone on. It’s really exciting to see where the season takes us.
“Sunday was my first 50-over game, and it was good to get out there. Obviously we had a few missing, but Lozzie (Lauren Winfield-Hill) came back and showed her commitment and class. The way she batted was amazing.
“We were absolutely delighted with the win.”
On reflection, Sunday’s seven-wicket victory chasing a target of 206 against the Stars was a huge moment for the Diamonds, and not just because it yielded five points. Its importance was arguably much more significant.
Hall explained: “It was the first time the five girls have come through our Academy had played together in the same game.”
Hall, Emma Marlow, Lizzie Scott, Phoebe Turner and Jess Woolston were those players.
“A few of us have been playing in other games and others haven’t. So for us all to be out there together, it was really nice,” reflected Hall.
“For all five us to be playing having only come into the squad in the last year or so, it just shows how good the Academy programme has been in pushing us to where we want to be.”
For that reason, a number of the management group need name-checking; director of cricket James Carr, coach Dani Hazell, current Academy director Tom Cant and his predecessor Courtney Winfield-Hill. Current assistant coach Kyle Coetzer as well. They have all been determined to push forwards the fledglings.
Hall said: “With the five of us coming in, to join a new team and win a trophy together would be absolutely unbelievable. But we have a long way to go yet.”
That is best indicated by the fact the Diamonds face a Blaze team who have only lost one game all season – in the final of the Charlotte Edwards Cup last month against the Southern Vipers.
Their chance to play together came courtesy of the unavailability of captain Hollie Armitage and fellow batter Bess Heath, who were both on England A duty. They are set to return on Friday, with this being in Heath’s home town.
Despite Sunday being Hall’s 50-over debut, she slotted into the team seamlessly, owing much to her exposure in T20 cricket.
She deceived a quartet of Stars batters with her slingy action, accuracy and variations aplenty.
She added: “Playing the T20 stuff allowed me to feel comfortable going out there even though it’s a very different game to 50-over cricket.
“Before the game, I discussed with Dani (Hazell) that while my bowling is very T20 style in a way, I didn’t want to lose that coming into the 50 overs. It gives me confidence that I didn’t have to change any of my game. I know how I can take wickets.
“I take on a slightly different role in 50-over cricket, but there are plenty of similarities as well if that makes sense. Coming back to bowl at the death, for example, I feel I’m quite well suited to that. But I do try and swing the ball early on.”