Northern Diamonds secured a stunning opening day victory in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy as Lancashire Thunder were brushed aside by nine wickets at Durham’s Seat Unique Riverside today. 

Diamonds were indebted to a trio of performances from three of their most experienced players, with leg-spinner Katie Levick claiming 4-38 as the visitors were bowled out for 165 off 43.1 overs.

England internationals Lauren Winfield-Hill and Hollie Armitage then both hit unbeaten half-centuries – 69 and 61 respectively – as the hosts reached the modest target from 34.3 overs, clinching a bonus point (five in all) in the process.

Australian overseas debutant Erin Burns also had an impressive day, returning 1-18 from her 10 overs of off-spin.

There were a host of contributors as the region made the ideal start to their bid to repeat the 2022 title triumph in this competition. 

Only Thunder’s opening batter Seren Smale, an England A international, showed any real opposition with the bat, scoring 32.

Lauren Winfield-Hill

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Lauren Winfield-Hill en-route to yet another match-clinching fifty.

But Diamonds took wickets regularly to extinguish any chance of a recovery from the visitors who could not build any partnerships of note in contrast to the match-winning second-wicket one between Winfield Hill and Armitage, which stood unbeaten at 107.

Thunder never really recovered from the early blow of losing Emma Lamb, bowled by Jess Woolston without scoring.

Fellow opener Smale subsequently struggled to find any partners of substance.

Australian debutant Katie Mack threatened with a breezy 19, before she was trapped in front by Abi Glen, who then bowled Fi Morris for a golden duck to leave Thunder 40-3 in the 10th over after Armitage had elected to bowl upon winning the toss.

Both visiting captain Ellie Threlkeld and then Smale departed lbw with the latter’s 32 the top score of the innings. No one else reached 20, and the opener was only matched by the total of extras.

Levick then built on the good early work of Glen in particular, who finished with 2-31 from nine overs. 

Lauren Winfield-Hill

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Emma Lamb is bowled by Jess Woolston.

Threlkeld was Levick’s first victim as the Diamonds leggie turned the screw effectively.

Thunder floundered despite some defiance from Naomi Dattani (17), Danielle Collins (17) and Tara Norris (16). They at least added some respectability to the scorecard with a total north of 150. 

It was Levick’s day though, and last season’s leading wicket-taker for Diamonds took the last three to fall to close with typically strong figures.

The Sheffield-born star is now just two wickets away from 350 in her senior career.

Winfield-Hill and Sterre Kalis attacked from the start of the Diamonds innings, and although both Phoebe Graham and Mahika Gaur bowled tightly they were unable to make a crucial early breakthrough for Thunder, something which was so badly needed for a side now coached by ex-England men’s wicketkeeper Chris Read.

This certainly wasn’t the first game in charge he was hoping for! 

Hollie Armitage

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Hollie Armitage and Phoebe Turner (l) celebrate after victory over Thunder.

It was not until the 14th over when Diamonds had reached 59 and seen off the opening bowlers that the wicket finally came.

Kalis scooped a full toss from slow-left armer, Hannah Jones, into the hands of Dattani at mid-wicket for 28.

A second Thunder wicket failed to materialise, thankfully, with Armitage joining Winfield-Hill at the crease and the pair attacking against left-armer seamer Norris and the off-spin of Morris, in particular, with some powerful hitting down the ground.

Winfield-Hill eased to her half-century as the second wicket partnership turned into a match-winning one, with the only real drama concerning if Armitage would join her in reaching the landmark which she did in the 34th over.

Winfield-Hill reached her fifty off 64 balls and Armitage off 65. For Winfield-Hill, last season’s RHFT leading run-scorer with 663 runs, this was her 15th fifty in List A cricket for the Diamonds in only 29 appearances.

The century partnership came up shortly before the winning runs were hit, leaving Winfield-Hill and Armitage both not out at the close of a very satisfying day for Diamonds, who return to Headingley on Wednesday to tackle Western Storm.

Sophia Turner

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Fast bowler Sophia Turner is congratulated after striking against her former team. 


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