The Northern Diamonds lost their third game in a row to dent their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy title defence as the Central Sparks chased down 164 in 19 overs to win a rain-affected clash by five wickets with two balls to spare at Headingley.

Sparks were fired to their fifth win in nine games, cementing second place in the table, by a fine display from former England all-rounder Katie George.

The ex-Yorkshire Diamond in the KSL days claimed 2-46 from seven overs of left-arm seam before aggressively leading the chase with 56 off 35 balls. 

She fell as one of two wickets in the last over to Katie Levick, who bowled her and then former team-mate Ami Campbell. But the Sparks only needed three runs off the last over, and Charis Pavely hit the winning runs. 

Rain played its part as showers throughout the day significantly affected a ninth round fixture, with a delayed start and numerous other failed attempts to restart. 

The Diamonds have now lost five of nine games and are fourth in the table, level on 19 points with South East Stars, who have a game in hand in third. 

Captain Hollie Armitage top-scored with 66 off 56 balls in the Diamonds 223-4 from 34 overs, while Bess Heath was unbeaten on 49 off 31. They shared 66 inside seven overs for the fourth wicket, advancing from 131-3 in the 26th over.

The start was delayed until 12.40pm, with a 37-overs per side game inked in. That got reduced to 34 because of rain late in the Diamonds innings, which finished at 3.20pm.

Having been inserted, the Diamonds innings started well and ended in blistering fashion, with fourth-wicket pair Armitage and Heath standing out later on. 

They were two of a handful of important contributors on a green but true pitch which offered good pace and carry. 

Lauren Winfield-Hill and Sterre Kalis set the platform by sharing 60 inside 12 overs.

The both played fluently and took advantage of some over-pitched bowling from England quick Issy Wong, who delivered four full tosses in all which were punished. 

Heath later clipped one of them over square-leg for six.

Kalis took the lead role with 36, including five fours. She drove and pulled particularly well, while Winfield-Hill supported her with 28.

Less than 24 hours before this fixture, Kalis was back at home playing for the Netherlands in a T20 international against Thailand in Utrecht. She made a half-century.

Unfortunately for her, her kit was stuck on the plane back to the UK, meaning she had to use an old Kookaburra bat of hers and some borrowed kit from team-mates.

Not that it was too much of an issue, mind you.

After removing both Winfield-Hill and Kalis, leaving the score at 83-2 after 15 overs, the Sparks got a hold of the game for a period. Winfield-Hill was bowled by the off-spin of Georgia Davis and Kalis caught behind off George.

Bethan Ellis and Australian overseas all-rounder Erin Burns tightened things up with the ball as Armitage and Emma Marlow struggled for momentum.

Lauren Winfield-Hill

Picture by John Clifton/ Abbey Freeborn just gets in. Northern Diamonds’ Lauren Winfield-Hill.

However, while Marlow miscued a short ball from George to cover, where Ellis took a smart diving catch – 131-3 in the 26th over – Armitage was able to push on.

She and Heath shared their quick-fire half-century stand, including a pair of sixes each and one apiece over long-on.

Forty four runs came in three overs from 153-3 after 29, though Armitage, having reached her fifty in 51 balls, fell to a stunning diving catch by Burns on the run from long-on off Davis. Only two more overs of play were possible in the Diamonds innings.

When play resumed at 4.45pm, the Sparks started their chase well, reaching 40-0 in the fifth over and helped by two lots of five wides. That was a key factor in this game, with Diamonds ultimately conceding 32 extras, including 16 wides. They were also sloppy in the field.

Australian Burns, promoted to open, was first to go when caught at mid-on off Jess Woolston’s seam. 

Leg-spinner Levick bowled a sweeping Abbey Freeborn shortly afterwards before George hit the leg-spinner for three fours in the 10th over – two wide of long-on – to take the score to 84-2.

Eve Jones, for 26, then scooped Grace Hall’s slingy seam to short fine-leg in the next over, leaving the score at 89-3.

But George, helped by former Diamond Campbell, maintained the momentum to ensure the Sparks won for the fifth time in nine games in all.

George reached 50 off 30 balls and took the target to nine off the last two overs. She shared 72 with fourth-wicket partner Campbell, who added 27.

Diamonds travel to Arundel to face Southern Vipers next Saturday. 


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