Hollie Armitage scored a brilliant century – and Northern Diamonds produced a good, battling performance before losing narrowly by just three runs to Southern Vipers in a pulsating finish to an entertaining Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy game at South Northumberland CC.
Chasing a target of 262, after Vipers skipper Georgia Adams had top-scored with 82 in her side’s 261-8, Armitage did likewise.
She arrived at the crease at the end of the 10-over powerplay and was still there at the end, valiantly unbeaten on 106, as the visitors clung on for victory as they defended nine off the last over. The Diamonds finished on 258-8.
Grace Hall continued her impressive breakthrough summer with 4-46 from 10 overs, while fellow seamer Lizzie Scott claimed three wickets.
The result keeps both teams in the mix for the play offs as the competition heads towards an exciting climax later this month.
The Diamonds are sixth in the table after 11 games, sat on 21 points, five behind South East Stars, who hold third place. The top three teams will play finals cricket.
Lauren Winfield-Hill and Sterre Kalis made an excellent start to the Diamonds run chase, posting 52 in the powerplay.
Winfield-Hill hit five boundaries to reach a run-a-ball 29, but she was lbw to Ava Lee from the penultimate ball of the 10th over.
Kalis struck 37 before falling lbw to Adams, with the Diamonds 98-2 in the 19th.
But Armitage took over the run-scoring mantle to reach a 59-ball half-century that kept the defending champions in the hunt – and she found good support from the middle order as the hosts continued to close in on their target.
Emma Marlow contributed 20 to a third-wicket partnership of 61 before she was brilliantly caught and bowled by Nancy Harman, leaving the Diamonds needing 103 off 100 balls at 159-3.
Rebecca Duckworth also made 23 but pulled Alice Monaghan to Harman at deep mid-wicket, before Leah Dobson chipped in with a valuable 20 in a 51-run partnership with her captain.
Dobson’s stay at the crease was crucially ended when she was bowled by the medium pace of Georgia Elwiss early in the last over.
Armitage batted superbly to reach her second women’s List A century from 101 balls, including 11 fours.
But the Vipers hung on, taking key wickets at crucial times, including Elwiss striking in the last and conceding five singles to elevate themselves into top-three contention with three games remaining.
The Diamonds made an early breakthrough after Adams had won the toss when Scott produced a great delivery that nipped back to bowl Abi Norgrove for six and have the Vipers on 18-1 in the fifth over at a Gosforth venue on the outskirts of Newcastle.
The visitors responded in positive fashion, with Ella McCaughan and Adams compiling an excellent 109-run partnership across 24 overs that formed the bedrock of the Vipers innings.
McCaughan drove nicely either side of the wicket to move along steadily alongside her skipper before offering a return catch from a strong drive back to Hall after making 47.
Adams was quickly into her stride, striking two boundaries from her first seven balls faced, and striking a six and 11 fours in a classy 91-ball innings.
It took an excellent yorker from Phoebe Turner to end Adams’ stay when she looked well-set and leave the Vipers 169-3 in the 37th.
Elwiss made 22 before edging an attempted cut off Hall to wicketkeeper Winfield-Hill, Emily Windsor added a well-constructed 39 during the closing overs and Rhianna Southby contributed an unbeaten 15 off six balls.
The Diamonds attack – who lost Jessica Woolston to injury after the seamer had only completed five overs – bowled with commendable determination on a swelteringly hot day and were rewarded with late wickets.
Scott claimed two in four balls, with Australian Nicole Faltum driving to sub fielder Emily Whiting at mid-off before Harman was lbw.
Windsor drove Hall into the hands of Turner at mid-off, quickly followed by Monaghan well held at long-on by Scott off the same bowler.
That late burst meant the Vipers were restricted when a bigger total had looked in their grasp. It was a total that felt slightly under par, but unfortunately it proved just too much for the Diamonds, who face Western Storm at Taunton on Sunday.