Dani Hazell believes the increase in fixtures in the Charlotte Edwards Cup and the tinkering with the finals series in both regional competitions comes at the right time for the women’s domestic game in England.
Northern Diamonds coach Hazell, who has been with England’s A squad in Oman and India for the last month alongside captain Hollie Armitage, has returned home to continue preparations for the new summer, starting next April.
The domestic fixtures for 2024 were released by the ECB late last month, and with it came news of some significant changes.
Both the Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 competition and the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy will now be decided following two semi-finals and a final instead of only three teams previously qualifying to play knockout cricket.
In T20 cricket, the group stage has also been increased from seven to 10 games, with the eight regions playing each other once added to twice apiece for their three closest geographical rivals.
That is added to 14 group games for the RHFT, which has been in place since the start of 2023.
“The more games, the better,” said Hazell.
“It’s abiout time we started pushing those fixtures up because the quality of the cricket the girls are producing is warranting that.
“The semi-finals side of things is good because it’s creating more pressure games.
“It’s giving an extra team an opportunity to get there and be put under pressure.
“It can only be a good thing that there’s more games with more on them.”
Another significant piece of news from the fixture release was the fact that the Diamonds start their summer against local rivals Thunder at Durham in the RHFT on Saturday April 20.
“If you can’t get up for that one, you’re not trying!” continued Hazell, with a smile.
“When that fixture came out, we straightaway saw it as a really good opportunity to get our season started with a bang. We’ve still got plenty of time to go, but we’ll be ready for that one.
“The girls are in a strength and conditioning phase at the moment, and the focus on cricket will increase after Christmas.”
Hazell and the Diamonds have added the signing of fast bowler Sophia Turner to their ranks ahead of next season, with the potential for an overseas signing to follow over the next few months.
And the former England off-spinner believes her squad is well placed to handle the rigours of a busier schedule, with her providing a positive update on injured star Beth Langston.
The fast bowler only played one regional game last summer due to complications arising from the Anterior Cruciate Knee Ligament injured she suffered whilst bowling in the Hundred towards the end of the 2022 summer.
“Last season we had a few injuries towards the back end, and we had to go and get Sophia (Turner) on loan. We’ve signed her permanently now,” said Hazell.
“But, looking back, the positive side is that our younger girls were exposed to more game time than they would have been had someone such as a Beth been fit.
“That squad depth is exactly what we’ll need next year. Everybody will get an opportunity throughout the season. We just have to make sure we get enough cricket into them for when their chance comes. That’s not just practice, that’s second-team cricket as well.”
And she added: “Beth is coming along nice.
“It was hugely disappointing for her and us that she only played one game last year (Charlotte Edwards Cup clash with Thunder at Blackpool in June).
“It will be like having a new player available to us, really.
“We’re planning to build her up again post Christmas and have her fit for early in the season.
“But it was quite a major operation that she went through right back to September 2022. It feels like ages ago.
“We’ve kept doing the right things by her for her longevity.
“She’s not quite bowling yet because she’s had one more little clean-up thing to get done. But we’re hoping that will be it.”