The Northern Diamonds are aiming for a pre-Hundred boost as they bid to get their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy title challenge back on track this weekend.
The Diamonds travel south to Arundel on Saturday (10.30am) to face old foes Southern Vipers, the team they have played in each of the three 50-over finals so far.
It is the first of two meetings between the two market leading regions in the final five rounds of the group phase – and they are set to be pivotal clashes.
The Diamonds are on a three-game losing run, yet they are still very much in the hunt for the late September knockout stages.
With five rounds remaining – 25 points to play for – Diamonds (19 points) are five points behind third-place South East Stars, who hold the final knockout qualifying berth. The Vipers are currently two points behind the Diamonds.
This fixture at picturesque Arundel is the final 50-over fixture before the six-and-a-half-week break for the Hundred, and is therefore a huge moment in the season.
If Hollie Armitage’s side can claim win number five, it will be a significant launch pad for the final four games of the campaign says South African overseas all-rounder Chloe Tryon.
“It’s important we finish on a high,” she said. “It will give us a big boost going into the break.
“We have got time to turn it around, and I’m backing us to do it.”
It’s amazing to think that the Diamonds have lost five games in the RHF Trophy this season – as many as they did in seasons 2020 to 2022 combined.
And it’s even more remarkable to think that the Vipers’ four defeats this year is one more than they lost in seasons 2020 to 2022 combined.
The prior consistency of these two regions has been quite outstanding, and in truth that kind of form can’t go on forever. There was always going to be a downturn at some point and an upturn in form and development from other regions around them as well.
The Diamonds are just hoping their flat spot doesn’t last quite as long as that of Georgia Adams’ side.
“These things do happen to every team,” continued Tryon. “We have a lot of youngsters in the team, who have been learning a lot. They’ve had some great performances so far.
“Someone like Gracey Hall has been fantastic for us. She’s come a long way. You have to reflect on each experience as much as you can. As a team, you can improve after every single game, whether it’s a win or a loss.”
Last time out, on Saturday, the Diamonds were beaten by Central Sparks in a rain-shortened game in which they posted 223-4 in 34 overs before the visitors chased a revised 164 in 19 overs.
After batting problems in previous defeats to the Blaze and Thunder, Tryon believes there were encouraging signs in the performance which point to encouragement ahead of this weekend.
“We were happy with how we went in the first half with the bat, but unfortunately it didn’t got to plan in the second half,” she said.
“We weren’t able to stick to our disciplines in the field. To be fair, they batted really well. Katie George batted really well. I just felt that we needed to bowl a bit tighter.
“We’ve spoken in the last few weeks a lot about our batting, and we put a lot of partnerships together. We still had overs to bat before the rain, so you never know how many more we could have got. Bam (Bess Heath, 49) batted well at the end after Hollie (Armitage, 66) had set us up in the middle.
“It shows that we can bounce back well. Unfortunately, as I say, the second half just didn’t quite go to plan.”
February’s T20 World Cup finalist Tryon initially signed with the Diamonds at the start of the season on an overseas deal until the start of next month’s Hundred.
That means the Vipers game is the last of that initial deal. But could the 29-year-old stay on into September?
“I’m hoping it won’t be (my last game),” she added. “But we’ll just have to see what happens. There’s international duties to think about. At the moment, I’m not sure. We’ll just have to play it by ear.
“But hopefully it works out and I can help the girls in the back end of the season. I’m really enjoying my time here. There’s a lot of talent around this group, and I’ve got on really well and gelled with everyone.
“We’ve got a lot of players who have been signed for the Hundred, which is really good as well. It will be really exciting to see how they go.”
The Vipers won their last game against Western Storm at Millfield School in Somerset on Saturday, chasing a revised target of 238 in 48 overs to win by four wickets. England’s Maia Bouchier top-scored with 71 after two wickets for ex-Diamond Linsey Smith.