The Northern Diamonds got themselves in a spin with the bat as they lost today’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy clash with the Central Sparks by seven wickets at New Road.
The Diamonds were bowled out for just 161 in Worcester, slipping from a position of health at 121-3 in the 25th over.
The defending champions lost their last seven wickets for 40 runs, six of them falling to spin. Off-spinner Georgia Davis finished with 4-19 from 7.3 overs, while England Under 19s leggie Hannah Baker added 2-31 from seven, including the key wicket of Hollie Armitage for 37.
In reply, the Sparks, who inflicted the Diamonds’ first defeat in this competition since the 2021 final at Northampton, chased the runs with relative comfort in decent batting conditions – a true pitch with a short boundary towards the Cathedral side of this ground.
Their captain Eve Jones steered them home with an unbeaten 67 off 111 balls, the hosts securing victory with 11.4 overs remaining.
It means the Diamonds have now won one and lost one at the start of the summer and head to Chelmsford on Monday to face the Sunrisers.
Lauren Winfield-Hill looked a million dollars for her 42 off 40 balls, including seven fours and a pulled six over deep square-leg off Emily Arlott just four balls into the contest after the Diamonds had been invited to bat.
She drove well and dominated an opening partnership of 50 with Sterre Kalis, who went on to make 16.
Since the start of last summer’s RHF Trophy, Winfield-Hill has reached at least 50 in seven of nine 50-over innings for the Diamonds (587 runs, 83.85 average).
That the pair were two of only five batters who made double figures clearly hurt the Diamonds; Armitage’s 37 was followed by 13 for Bess Heath and 26 for Chloe Tryon.
Winfield-Hill and Phoebe Turner were bowled by England quick Issy Wong as the Diamonds fell to 87-3 in the 19th over. Sandwiched in between, Kalis was caught behind off Katie George’s left-arm seam.
Armitage, who pulled Wong for six, and Heath were looking dangerous, but their fourth-wicket stand of 34 was cut short when the latter was lbw trying to reverse slog Davis – 121-4 in the 25th.
That was the first of three wickets to fall for as many runs in 11 balls as Armitage skewed Baker to backward point and Abi Glen was bowled by Davis.
Further damage was done when Baker bowled Lizzie Scott, meaning the Diamonds, at 127-7 in the 30th, had lost four wickets for six.
South African overseas star Tryon opened her shoulders as partners came and went, and she blasted a flattish straight six off Baker to release some of the pressure amidst a stand of 33 with Emma Marlow.
Unfortunately, when Tryon picked out Wong at deep cover off George’s bowling, the Diamonds’ innings was about to end without minimal addition.
Tryon was the first of three more wickets to fall for a run as Davis had Katie Levick caught at short mid-on off a leading edge and Jess Woolston caught behind with back-to-back deliveries in the 37th over.
Woolston then gave the Diamonds the ideal start to the defence when she had Chloe Brewer, on the drive, caught at slip by Tryon as the hosts slipped to 6-1 early in the fourth over.
But the Sparks settled through left-handed Jones and second-wicket partner Abbey Freeborn.
In last week’s defeat against the Blaze, the Sparks promoted Wong to open the batting and pinch hit. But there was none of that kind of style of batting here.
They adopted a low-risk approach to batting and were helped by a Diamonds’ attack who were unusually not able to create any pressure.
While Emma Marlow bowled six wides in her only over, the Diamonds struggled more for length rather than line. They were largely too short in the Worcester sunshine, while also being below par in the field.
Jones and Freeborn shared 98 inside 22 overs, with the latter making 37 before being run out backing up by Levick as she deflected a Jones straight drive back onto the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
However, at 104-2 in the 25th over, you felt as if the hard work had been done by the Sparks.
Jones reached her fifty off 93 balls shortly afterwards, and it proved a task too far for the Diamonds to drag things back.
The England A batter also shared a third-wicket partnership of 45 with 16-year-old Davina Perrin, who showed plenty of youthful exuberance in 30 before being stumped off Armitage’s leg-spin with only 13 needed to win – 149-3 in the 37th over.