Hollie Armitage is expecting the Northern Diamonds to have to do it the hard way if they are going to retain their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy title later this month.
The Diamonds slipped to a narrow three-run defeat against old rivals Southern Vipers at South Northumberland Cricket Club in Gosforth on Tuesday, in which captain Armitage amassed a superb unbeaten 106 which went unrewarded.
It was a damaging defeat to their hopes of silverware, and they are now five games without a victory since the start of July. Unfortunately, they have lost four of those and had the odd one out rained off.
It means Armitage and co are now sixth in the table with 21 points from 11 games. With 15 points still on offer, they are five points adrift of South East Stars in third. They hold the final spot on offer for knockout qualification.
The top team, which will almost certainly be the Blaze, qualifies directly for the final. Second and third place then play off in an effective semi-final, entitled the Eliminator.
It is safe to say the Diamonds have very little room for manoeuvre if they are to advance – and the skipper knows it.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s trip to Taunton to face Western Storm (10.30am), England A star Armitage said: “The next three group games are big for us.
“I think we do have to win the next three for it still to be in our hands in terms of making that Eliminator.
“If we don’t win them all, results are going to have to go our way.
“We’ll be treating every game as if it’s a final. Hopefully we can bounce back at Taunton.”
Awaiting the Diamonds are a Storm side who currently sit bottom of the eight-team table. While the Diamonds have won four of their 11 games, Storm have only won two.
In fact, if you look at the current table, there is absolutely no reason why the Diamonds can’t go and win their three remaining fixtures because they play three of the bottom four teams in the table to round off the group phase.
Fifth-placed Thunder at Sale comes on Wednesday before second-bottom Sunrisers travel to the Riverside in Durham a week on Saturday for the final fixture of 14.
Armitage, 26-years-old, was superb against the Vipers on her way to her second senior career century.
Her first was against the Storm at Taunton in last year’s RHF Trophy. The fixture was almost a year to the day that this forthcoming fixture will be played. Last year it was September 11, this year September 10.
The England A star hit 131 not out in a mammoth 334-6 total. She later took two wickets and as many catches in a comfortable defence, the hosts bowled out for 230. It was the game immediately after the death of HRH Queen Elizabeth.
Armitage’s ton against the Vipers earlier this week was her sixth 50 plus score in 30 innings across all cricket this summer, including in the Hundred and for England’s second string.
She had a quiet Hundred with the bat – aside from scores of 42 and 46 – despite leading Northern Superchargers, who were beaten finalists in that competition.
Fingers crossed, she can repeat the Taunton trick of 12 months ago.
“I’ve scored another century, and it’s really nice to do that,” she added. “Getting some runs was a boost after I’ve been quite low on confidence with the bat.”
Northern Diamonds have signed seamer Sophia Turner from Lancashire Thunder for the remainder of the season.
Storm were beaten by Sunrisers at Radlett on Tuesday, the hosts chasing down a target of 144 to win by four wickets.