This article has been taken from The Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s 2021 Yearbook to mark Women’s County Cricket Day.

The Northern Diamonds are ready and raring to go as they look to build on last summer’s excellent start to competitive life as one of the eight new women’s Regional Centres of Excellence.

Coach Dani Hazell’s side reached the final of the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, only to be beaten by Southern Vipers in the late September final.

But this time around, confidence is high in their ability to go one step further in both the RHF Trophy and the new ECB Regional T20 competition.

Early signs are good ahead of their late May start.

A host of squad members are currently in action for Yorkshire’s county team.

Last weekend, they beat Cumbria in back-to-back T20s and today face North East Warriors in the same format at Harrogate.

Hollie Armitage, one of the five Diamonds contracted professionals, is arguably in the form of her life.

The 28-year-old batting all-rounder captained Tasmanian side Clarence to a one-day title in March whilst wintering in Australia. To cap things off, she scored a century in the final.

Against the Cumbrians last weekend, she scored two half-centuries and took five wickets with her rapidly developing leg-spin.

Contracted alongside Armitage to the Diamonds are Phoebe Graham, Jenny Gunn, Beth Langston and Linsey Smith.

Effectively replacing the Yorkshire Diamonds, who played in four years of the T20 Kia Super League, this side’s existence will see it represent Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland – something they did with vigour in a shortened 2020 campaign.

The RHF Trophy was drawn up at late notice by the ECB once domestic cricket was given the go ahead following Coronavirus – eight teams split into two regional groups, each team playing six games and top of each group advancing to the final.

And the Diamonds raced out of the blocks, winning their first four matches.

In the end, they only lost one in the group phase – by six wickets against Central Sparks at Emerald Headingley on September 13 – and advanced with comfort.

The squad included many names who had performed well whilst wearing the White Rose in the KSL; Armitage, Helen Fenby, Bess Heath, Langston and Katie Levick. Then, they were able to make use of England players Katherine Brunt, Nat Sciver, Smith and Lauren Winfield-Hill at either end of the competition.

We can expect to see them all again this summer.

The Diamonds got off to an excellent start with August Bank Holiday weekend wins over the Sparks at Edgbaston on Saturday 29 and another Midlands side, Lightning, at Durham’s Emirates Riverside on Monday 31.

All England players were available before heading into a training camp ahead of a late summer T20 series against the West Indies at Derby, and all four shone across the two aforementioned fixtures, highlighted by five wickets against the Sparks for seamer Brunt and a century against the Lightning for her wife Sciver.

Winfield-Hill made a winning start as captain, with her 72 off 71 balls helping to secure a nine-wicket win chasing 145 against the Sparks after Brunt’s superb 5-20 from nine overs, including four of them bowled.

The win over the Lightning was more hard-fought.

Sciver, one of the star’s of the world game, showed all her class to fashion a recovery from 84-6 in the 22nd over after Winfield-Hill had elected to bat.

She took the lead role in an 84-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Alex MacDonald (28), with her 104 off 113 balls ensuring a score of 226-9.

But there was more peril on the horizon for the Diamonds as captain Kathryn Bryce, who earlier took the new ball and claimed 5-29 from 10 overs, posted 71 not out from number three in the order. England opener Tammy Beaumont hit 51 and the other Bryce, Sarah, hit 57.

The Lightning were 117-1 and later 152-2, but they subsided badly to 217-7. Sciver struck twice in the 37th over as the score became 152-4, while Smith and experienced Jenny Gunn were miserly and claimed two wickets apiece.

The return clash with the Lightning followed on Saturday September 5 at Leicestershire’s Fischer County Ground, Grace Road, and again the Diamonds had to dig deep to secure a victory – by two wickets with seven balls remaining as they chased a target of 227.

Now without their England players, Langston, Gunn, Armitage and MacDonald all claimed two wickets as the hosts were bowled out for 226, a target which proved to be competitive across the board in this competition.

And it certainly proved so as the Diamonds slipped to 7-2 in the seventh over and 119-7 in the 30th, with off-spinner Lucy Higham claiming three wickets.

Thankfully, though, the visitors had the experience of former England one-day World Cup winners Gunn and Langston to count on.

They shared a controlled and sensible 81 in 15 overs for the eighth wicket, with Langston hitting 37. When she departed (200-8 in the 45th), Gunn kept her cool to finish 50 not out off 72 balls – four fours included – with seamer Graham chipping in with 15 unbeaten.

Aged 34, Gunn had to be coaxed out of retirement ahead of the campaign by Hazell, a call which proved to be inspired as this contribution was supplemented by more to follow.

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