Northern Diamonds started their preparations for the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy with a useful workout against Central Sparks in Birmingham.

Despite slipping to defeat, there were some very strong performances from the young Diamonds side, with opening batter Hollie Armitage making a blistering 87, whilst opening bowler Ella Telford claimed four wickets.

Having won the toss and elected to bowl, Northern Diamonds restricted Central Sparks to 269 for 8 in 40 overs. Telford was the pick of the bowlers, claiming two early wickets with her seamers before returning later in the innings to pick up another two, including the dangerous Milly Home who was well set on 73. Phoebe Graham, Armitage and Grace Hall all added a wicket apiece.

Armitage’s knock was the bedrock of the Diamonds reply, with her 87 coming from just 78 balls with nine boundaries and a six. The opener was ably assisted by Ami Campbell who made 48 from just 33 balls. However, their efforts were not enough as they were bowled out for 215 with 3.5 overs remaining.

Armitage said: “The girls have had a long winter, in and out of bubbles with everything going on, so everyone was really happy to be back out on the park. From yesterday’s performance we’ve got some really good things to come out of it, but also some things that we can definitely work on leading up to the competition in six weeks.

“You don’t want to peak too soon, so it’s good that we have only had the first game now. There will be plenty of training, a few more warm up games and by the end of the six weeks everything will hopefully have pieced together.”

Armitage spent the winter honing her skills in Australia, playing club cricket for Clarence CC. Something she did with great success, scoring three hundreds Down Under.

Armitage commented: “I’m just hoping to be able to bring the things that I’ve learnt in Australia back here to help with some winning performances. It’s really nice knowing I’ve had some good innings under my belt, but the main thing now is contributing the match winning performances.

“The main thing I learnt was to trust my ability to bat for long periods of time and accumulate runs like that, rather than going from gear zero to gear six and not giving myself a chance to put some big performances together. Hopefully I can carry this through into the summer.”

On the Diamonds bowling performance, Armitage was keen to praise Telford: “We’ve got some fantastic seamers, and Telf bowled extremely well yesterday. I think that’s really promising for a young seamer, especially early on in the season. Everyone has still got bits and bobs they can be working on but it’s a really promising start to say we are still six weeks away from our opening game so I think it is looking good for us.”

With the start of the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy not until Saturday 29th May, when the Diamonds take on Central Sparks at Emerald Headingley, preparation will vary for the players over the coming weeks.

“This next week is a bit lighter,” Armitage said. “Then we are into some county fixtures so we will all end up competing against each other. In a couple of weeks time we have got some inter-squad games and one against England Academy, some really key games coming up for us.”

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