Scorecard

Northern Diamonds took three wickets in the last over to clinch a thrilling one-run victory over Central Sparks in a nail-biter of a Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy game which went down to the last ball at Edgbaston. 

Skipper Hollie Armitage was the hero at the death as, with her leg-spin, she dismissed Katie George and Ria Fackrell before striker Grace Potts was run out on the last ball by wicketkeeper Bess Heath as Sparks were bowled out for 215 chasing 217 to win.

They had started the final over on 213-7, need only four to win. 

In all, they crumbled from 112-1 after 27 overs and 201-5 in the 47th, handing the Diamonds their third win from five games. 

Sparks had looked to be cruising to victory after 65 from opener Eve Jones and 49 from Abigail Freeborn, plus George’s lower order 35.  

But five wickets in the last five overs saw Sparks collapse, with brilliant Armitage holding her nerve in an incredible last over.

Hollie Armitage

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Hollie Armitage was sensational with the ball at Edgbaston.

Earlier, Diamonds, having elected to bat, were bowled out for 216 two balls into the 50th over. Erin Burns top-scored with 49 and Abi Glen continued her excellent recent form with a lower order 31. 

Under welcome sunny skies in Birmingham, the visitors got off to a relatively calm but confident start, with Lauren Winfield-Hill playing her usual role as aggressor and Emma Marlow happy to play second-fiddle.

The opening pair had reached 44 in the 13th over when Winfield-Hill feathered a wide delivery from George behind to Freeborn for 28, the same bowler then getting one through Marlow’s defences for 20.

At 68-2, it felt like a substantial partnership was needed. But Diamonds struggled to exert the kind of pressure they needed to make the Sparks bowlers feel uncomfortable, despite a number of batters making starts.

Eight batters made double figures, including each of the top six. 

Armitage fell to the spin of Hannah Baker for 15, while Heath was dismissed by Potts for 17 to leave Diamonds 109-4 and in danger of wasting their decent start.

Picture by Olly Hassell/SWpix.com. Bess Heath, who took the wicketkeeping gloves today, warmed up for England duty with a win and ran out Grace Potts to seal it.

The visitors desperately needed someone to stick around, and Burns obliged as she and Leah Dobson began a middle order fightback. Dobson scored a quick-fire 20 off 22 balls before she was bowled by Charis Pavely.

Phoebe Turner and Sophia Turner both fell cheaply, but Burns remained until she was dismissed one short of her half-century with the score 173-8.

Glen and Jessica Woolston then stepped up to add valuable late runs, with the former hitting two sixes to get Diamonds above and beyond the 200 mark.

While the total looked slightly below par, hopes were immediately raised when Pavely was dismissed in the second over of the reply for just one as Burns took a simple caught and bowled chance.

The Sparks then built a partnership that looked like it would define the game as Jones and Freeborn slowly snuffed out the visitors’ early hopes, sharing 105 for the second wicket from 7-1.

Jones was dropped three times as she progressed to her half-century, but the visitors stuck in there – as they always do – and eventually the left-handed opener hit one straight to Australian Burns at cover off Sophia Turner.

Erin Burns

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Erin Burns top-scored with the bat at Edgbaston.

Freeborn was brilliantly run out by the same Turner – Sophia, not Phoebe – and the introduction of Katie Levick began to put some pressure back on Sparks as she dismissed Aussie Courtney Webb lbw for 15 and then took a sharp caught and bowled chance to snaffle Ami Campbell for four.

Suddenly Sparks were 145-5 in the 33rd and wobbling, but George and Bethan Ellis (23) added 56 in 14 overs to calm the hosts nerves. And the game looked up for Diamonds.

But when Ellis was caught off Phoebe Turner, 16 runs were still needed and the last over arrived with four required and Izzy Wong also back in the hutch – Armitage had her caught and bowled, 202-7 in the 48th. 

Armitage then had George caught at backward point off the first ball of the last and, after a wide and a single, trapped Fackrell lbw with the fifth before Potts, who swung and missed, was run out off the last by keeper Heath trying to scramble a bye for the tie.

Armitage hadn’t bowled at all previously this season. 

Having caught their breath, the Diamonds are back in action against South East Stars at Beckenham on Wednesday (10.30am).

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