A series of crucial contributions with bat and ball helped the Northern Diamonds claim a thrilling Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy win by three runs off the last ball against early-season pacesetters South East Stars at sunny Beckenham today.

Captain Hollie Armitage impressed once again, top-scoring with 66 off 70 balls in an imposing 312-9, also including 63 off 62 from England team-mate Bess Heath and 52 off 40 from Sterre Kalis.

In defence, Armitage struck once with her leg-spin in good batting conditions, and the Diamonds prevented the stars from achieving a world record women’s List A run chase. But only just! 

England batter Sophia Dunkley’s brilliant 130 off 136 balls from number three kept her side in it. But they failed to achieve a target of 11 off the last over from Erin Burns with three wickets left, including four off the last ball. It was the second time in as many seasons, Dunkley has hit a 50-over century against the Diamonds but lost. That happened at Scarborough last May.

Burns struck twice with her off-spinners, as did seamer Sophia Turner.  

Diamonds have now won four of their first six 50-over games in 2024,  with the competition now put on the back-burner until late June as the entire Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 competition is played, starting a week on Sunday. 

They have matched the haul of the Stars, who came into this fixture top of the table.

Diamonds won their second successive fixture off the last ball having beaten Central Sparks at Edgbaston on Saturday. 

Hollie Armitage

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Hollie Armitage continued her excellent start to the season.

Diamonds, having elected to bat, set about compiling a 300 plus total for only the second time in the regional era.

On a lovely South East London day, the foundations were laid by a 39-run opening stand inside nine overs between Lauren Winfield-Hill and Emma Marlow, the latter’s 32 representing her highest regional score.

Marlow cut one boundary and lofted another over mid-on’s head and also shared 68 for the second wicket with Armitage after Winfield-Hill had been bowled pulling at Tash Farrant’s left-arm swing.

Marlow’s was one of a trio of useful contributions in support of the three fifty-makers on a true but slowish pitch – as was the outfield. 

Burns hit 23 through the middle and Woolston matched that score at the death. 

Like Marlow, it was Woolston’s best regional score. 

The Diamonds may have stumbled late, slipping from 273-5 in the 44th over to 290-9 in the 48th. But, largely, this was a highly impressive and skilful batting display. 

Until the final six overs, the Stars were unable to build any pressure. 

Sterre Kalis

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Sterre Kalis with a fifty on her return from T20 World Cup Global Qualifiers duty.

A steady flow of runs came as Armitage, Heath and Kalis put their side in an excellent position under the London City Airport flightpath. 

Armitage, who reached 50 off 50 balls, was quick to latch onto anything short or over-pitched in hitting six boundaries. The best of them came when she drilled left-arm spinner Bethan Miles straight over the top. 

Unfortunately, by this time, Marlow had been run out by a direct hit at the non-striker’s end from cover – 107-2 after 20.

Armitage followed when she miscued Kalea Moore’s off-spin to mid-off with 141 on the board, but Heath and Burns added 46 to continue the smooth progression.

Burns was bowled by Dani Gregory’s leg-spin before Heath reached her fifty – the first of her season – off 53 balls, by which time thoughts had turned to 300 and plenty at 232-4 in the 40th over.

Like Armitage had done, she hoisted one of her four boundaries down the ground and was more than happy to sweep and reverse hit.

Heath and Kalis, back from international duty with the Netherlands, matched the 68 shared between Armitage and Marlow early on, this latest stand for the fifth wicket as they took the total beyond 250.

Kalis hoisted Miles down the ground for a classy six – the shot of the day. 

Jees Woolston

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Jess Woolston  impacted the game with bat and ball.

But she was about to lose Heath stumped off Miles and Leah Dobson caught at long-on off Phoebe Franklin’s seam, leaving the score at 273-6 after 44.

Amidst the late flurry of wickets, Kalis reached her fifty off 37 balls before swinging Franklin out to deep square as one of two wickets in the 46th. Phoebe Turner was also caught in the same position.

And when Sophia Turner miscued Alexa Stonehouse’s left-arm seam to point, what had looked a certain 300 total was in jeopardy at 290-9 in the 48th. 

Thankfully, though, Woolston had other ideas, and she heaved Stonehouse over deep mid-wicket for a last-over six.

Woolston’s impact on this fixture increased inside four overs of the Stars chase when she had left-handed Farrant brilliantly caught one-handed by Dobson diving forwards at cover – 15-1 – before Bryony Smith miscued Phoebe Turner’s seam to mid-wicket, 41-2 in the seventh.

From this point, it was also going to be down to Dunkley to get the Stars home, and she shared 52 with Stonehouse. But the patient Diamonds chipped away.

Sophia Turner had Stonehouse superbly caught behind for 21 by Heath, stood up to the stumps, before Armitage had Franklin (24) caught at point with her sixth ball, leaving the score at 127-4 after 24 overs.

The Diamonds then put the squeeze on, despite Dunkley’s presence – she reached her fifty off 72 balls. 

Sophia Turner

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Sophia Turner took two crucial wickets and the winning catch.

The Stars only scored one boundary between the 26th and 35th overs. 

It meant that a fifth-wicket partnership of 65 between Dunkley and wicketkeeper Chloe Hill was not particularly damaging. 

The latter was next to go – caught at deep square off Sophia Turner – at 192-5 after 37 overs.  

However, when Dunkley reached her hundred off 116 balls, the picture had changed somewhat. She had received good support from Cranstone, and the score was 250-5 in the 44th.

Burns had Cranstone, for 41, caught at mid-off during an expensive 46th over – a much needed strike to end an 83-run stand and leave the score at 275-6 – 37 to win off 25 balls.

Injured Alice Davidson-Richards, who spent much of the first innings off the field and required a runner batting down the order, was then stumped off Katie Levick as the leg-spinner expertly followed Sophia Turner conceding only four off the 47th.

The target became 28 off two overs at 284-7, but leg-side dominant Dunkley helped take 17 off Turner, including a four and six.

But, defending 11, Burns held her nerve, with Dunkley run out and Bethan Miles holing out to deep mid-wicket off the last ball that needed to go for four. 

Erin Burns

Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Experienced Aussie Erin Burns held her nerve.

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