Northern Diamonds star Lauren Winfield-Hill has hailed the progression and strength of regional cricket, saying: “It’s in a really strong and healthy spot.”

The regional structure is into its fourth summer, with the introduction of professional contracts for a number of domestic players going hand in hand.

The number of full-time contracted professionals has increased season on season since 2020.

Across the eight regions, 24 players were initially contracted on retainer deals during the Coronavirus pandemic.This summer, the Diamonds alone have contracted 10 players full-time.

Winfield-Hill is one of those, as is fellow wicketkeeper-batter Bess Heath, who last night made her senior England debut in an ODI victory over Sri Lanka at Leicester’s Uptonsteel County Ground.

Heath encouraged with a brisk 21 off 14 balls late in the innings as England racked up 273-8 in 31 overs. Former Diamond Nat Sciver-Brunt top-scored with 120 before Sri Lanka were bowled out for 120 in reply. England won the series 2-0.

Bess Heath

Picture by Matt Lewis, ECB via Getty Images. Bess Heath in action on her England senior debut last night.

Winfield-Hill was commentating on that game for Sky Sports, and she said of regional cricket: “The fact we have world-class overseas players wanting to come in and play shows that it’s really good competition.

“It changes in strength around international series, no doubt, but there are some really exciting youngsters around.

“We see lots of different people scoring runs and taking wickets, and we’ve got the depth that we’ve always longed for.

“It’s certainly serving its purpose, and there’s arguably a pool of 20 or 30 players they (England) could pick from.

“That’s exactly what you need when you look at the amount of cricket that’s going to be played moving forwards.

“There will be more rotation, there will be more picking for surfaces, countries, etc.”

Winfield-Hill will be back on the other side of the boundary rope tomorrow when the Diamonds face Sunrisers at Durham in their must win Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy clash.

It is the final round of group fixtures, and six of the eight regions still have something to play for.

The Blaze have already qualified for the knockouts, but top spot in the table is not yet secured for them. The five teams directly below them, including the Diamonds, are still bidding to reach the knockout stages.

The Diamonds are hopeful Heath will return to regional action in the North East following England duty.

Bess Heath

Picture by Matt Lewis, ECB via Getty Images. Bess Heath is handed her England cap by Sarah Glenn (right).

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