Grace Hall’s senior best return of 4-33 from eight overs of seam preceded a fabulous unbeaten 116 off 100 balls from Lauren Winfield-Hill as they set the Northern Diamonds up for a commanding seven-wicket Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy victory over South East Stars at Beckenham.
This was Hall’s competitive 50-over debut for the Diamonds, and the 20-year-old from York also affected a run out as the Stars were bowled out for 205 having elected to bat.
A clash between two sides affected by England call-ups, with the defending champions missing captain Hollie Armitage and Bess Heath due to A team duty on the other side of London at Guildford, was then decided by a player who was released by the national management to play.
Winfield-Hill arrived from England’s senior T20 squad to play, and she captained the Diamonds against a Stars team shorn of seven players.
For that reason alone, the hosts did extremely well to recover from 67-5 and 91-6 on a true pitch, with Jess Woolston and Katie Levick striking twice apiece early on.
But Winfield-Hill ensured their recovery only served to prolong the game rather than change its course, with the Diamonds claiming their fourth win in six RHF Trophy outings to stay on course for what would be a glorious title defence.
This was her second century in Diamonds colours since the start of last season’s title-winning campaign. In that time, she has gone beyond 50 nine times. South African Chloe Tryon also finished 57 not out off 44 balls, sharing an unbroken 123 inside 16 overs for the fourth wicket with Winfield-Hill.
The hosts were indebted to Chloe Hill’s regional best score of 63 off 80 balls from number five.
Watched by her father, Harry – Yorkshire’s new chair elect, Kira Chathli handsomely drove the first ball of the match through the covers off Lizzie Scott.
Unfortunately for her, she was the first Stars wicket to fall when caught behind for 11 trying to cut an in-ducker from Woolston, leaving the score at 13-1 after four overs.
Woolston gained further success when the other opener Alex Stonehouse edged behind, this time Winfield-Hill taking a stunning low one-handed catch diving to her right – 24-2 in the eighth.
The Stars lost regular wickets, including powerful South African Tazmin Brits lbw sweeping at Levick for 17 when she was looking likely to open her shoulders.
Overseas Brits struck the ball crisply in her brief stay at the crease on regional debut, so her wicket was much needed 49-3 in the 14th over.
Levick struck again to get Jemima Spence caught at slip before Hall’s first wicket was that of Kalea Moore caught behind by Winfield-Hill.
And when Maddie Blinkhorn-Jones offered a sharp return catch to off-spinner Emma Marlow, who would later bat at three in a re-jigged Diamonds batting line-up, the Stars were in significant bother 91-6 in the 25th over.
However, Hill frustrated the Diamonds and gave them something to think about with a leg-side dominant innings full of sweeps and pulls. Her first of eight boundaries, dabbed down to third, was her only one hit to the off-side.
She shared 81 for the seventh wicket with Bethan Miles, whose 28 was the only other individual score above 20 in the innings.
Hall then returned to get Miles caught at short mid-wicket as one of two wickets in the 39th over. Darcey Carter was bowled by one which jagged back a touch, leaving the score at 180-8.
In her next over, she had Hill caught at deep mid-wicket – her third wicket in 11 balls (185-9 in the 41st) before affecting the run out of home captain Danielle Gregory from short third five overs later to wrap up the innings.
Such was the late release of Winfield-Hill from England duty in the midst of their T20I series against Australia, she was playing with a blank shirt minus her usual number 58 on the back.
The numberless wonder, you might say.
She had a huge impact on this game, adding to her three catches behind the stumps with a superb innings.
Winfield-Hill twice lofted the spin of Miles over mid-off and long-off early on, once for four and again for six.
She also thumped Stonehouse’s left-arm seam arrow straight down the ground for four as the Diamonds started well at 33-0 in the fourth over.
However, she lost opening partner Sterre Kalis run out following a mix-up at the end of that over. Winfield-Hill cut Miles to backward point, both players set off for the single, but Kalis stopped – 33-1.
Marlow was watchful for 20 but fell lbw trying to pull Carter’s off-spin, the same bowler later getting Phoebe Turner brilliantly caught one-handed by Miles at wide-on as the score fell to 86-3 in the 18th over.
But Winfield-Hill’s presence at the crease meant this chase was always likely to be successful.
She reached her fifty off 44 balls and later played her part in taking four fours off Carter in the 22nd over as the score moved to 122-3. Tryon hit three of them.
Winfield-Hill continued to drive well, while South African Tryon provided confident support.
By the time Tryon reached her fifty off 41 balls with a clubbed six over long-on against Stonehouse, the Diamonds were 184-3 in the 32nd over. It was game over.
All the was left was for Winfield-Hill to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on a hundred, which she did off 94 balls later in the over.