The Northern Diamonds have been eliminated from the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy amidst a nail-biting final day group defeat against Sunrisers at Durham’s Seat Unique Riverside.

The Diamonds lost by six wickets with three balls to spare defending a Duckworth Lewis Stern revised target of 126 in 18 overs following a couple of lengthy rain interruptions.

Sunrisers also came into the final day with a chance of reaching the top three, but they were too eliminated despite a fourth straight win – achieved as they hit 10 off Lizzie Scott in the last over and recovered from 77-4 in the 13th over.

Jo Gardner and Flo Miller shared an unbroken 49 for the fifth wicket, 30 not out and 20 not out respectively. But the game was settled by a wide.

Long before the result was settled, which leaves the Diamonds sixth in the table, their fate was sealed as results elsewhere went against them, including the Blaze failing to beat the Southern Vipers, who have qualified for their fourth straight final.

The Diamonds posted 114-6 from 18 overs thanks largely to a brisk 37 from England’s Bess Heath and 28 for Sterre Kalis.

Sterre Kalis

Picture by Allan McKenzie/  Sterre Kalis on the attack today. 

Weather-wise, this was a day which signalled that winter is on its way.

Overnight rain persisted through the morning, sweeping across this Chester-le-Street venue. And play didn’t start until 2pm, with a 29-over game getting going under the floodlights.

This was a game between two in-form sides, with both having a chance of qualifying. The Diamonds had won their last two and the Sunrisers their last three.

New ball seamer Eva Gray impressed for the Sunrisers with two wickets, both early on to give them a fine start in excellent bowling conditions, with a grey sky allied to nip off the pitch.

Lauren Winfield-Hill

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Lauren Winfield-Hill is bowled by Eva Gray.

She sent down two superb deliveries which both nipped back and bowled Lauren Winfield-Hill and Hollie Armitage, leaving the score at 26-2 in the fifth over.

The one which bowled Winfield-Hill for one uprooted leg-stump and the one which removed captain Armitage for 13 flattened off.

Kalis helped settle things down after two big players went for low scores, and at 47-2 after 10 overs a platform had been set.

Unfortunately for her, she fell in the 11th when Kelly Castle took a stunning one-handed catch peddling back from mid-off to help leg-spinner Jodi Grewcock strike – 51-3.

Heath then showed significant intent, hitting three fours and a six over mid-wicket in a 21-ball innings either side of an hour and 20-minute rain delay from just after 3pm.

The Diamonds batted for five more overs when play resumed, and they advanced from 68-3 amidst the departures of impressive Heath, Rebecca Duckworth and Leah Dobson, who all offered catches as they tried to push on.

On-loan seamer Sophia Turner then bowled an attacking Scrivens for 11, leaving Sunrisers at 20-1 in the fourth over of their chase, giving the Diamonds the ideal start with the ball.

Sunrisers kept in touch, as opener Ariana Dowse made her way to 27. But she fell as one of two wickets in three balls to seamers Hall and Phoebe Turner as the score fell to 60-3 in the 11th over.

Dowse miscued Hall into the covers and Villiers found deep square-leg off Turner. It felt like it could be the turning point in the Diamonds’ favour. Alas, no.

Hall bowled Amara Carr for – 77-4 in the 13th over – and finished with two wickets.

Sunrisers kept in touch thanks to some clean hitting, chiefly from Gardner, who hoisted Hall for six over long-on in the penultimate over. The game was then sealed by a Lizzie Scott wide.

This is the first time the Diamonds have failed to qualify for the RHFT final, which will be played at Northampton next Sunday.

They finish a season which has seen development of many young players with six wins and seven defeats added to a No Result in this competition.

Winfield-Hill is likely to finish as the leading RHFT run-scorer with 663 runs, with Katie Levick’s 36 wickets is – as things stand – the most of any bowler across all regional cricket in 2023.

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