Northern Diamonds were defeated in last years Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final after a strong showing in the group stage.
Based around a strong group of experienced players and up and coming youngsters, it was easy to see why they performed so well with a core of Yorkshire players who have performed well in both the County Championship and with experience of the Kia Super League.
Diamonds were without Katherine Brunt, Natalie Sciver and Lauren Winfield-Hill due to England duty, but when they were available, it was noticeable. Brunt was her competitive best and Sciver scored a hundred against Lightning.
Their only defeat in the group came against Central Sparks at Headingley, but the rest of the group games were fairly easy wins, with the exception of their game against Lightning at Leicester where they won by two wickets with Jenny Gunn and Beth Langston coming to the rescue with the bat.
They were thankful for the form of Sterre Kalis, who started the competition with three ducks in her three innings but then hit form scoring fifties in her next three.
For most of the season, Hollie Armitage stepped up as Diamonds captain in the absence of Winfield-Hill and the allrounder did a sterling job. A big-hitting batter, Armitage is capable of winning matches on her own. In the past, she has been the player that goes hard during the powerplay.
With the addition of a T20 competition, it could be a great season for Armitage and Diamonds. She has also played for Sydney Sixers; it is a sign of just how much she is appreciated and to replace Ellyse Perry in a side is never easy.
As a spin bowler, she can deliver useful overs and takes wickets at crucial times. She took two wickets in the final last year when the Southern Vipers appeared on top.
One to watch
In a competition that is ostensibly about producing England players of the future, it was interesting to see players from associate nations selected. The Bryce sisters, who are both students at Loughborough, made them easy choices for Lightning, but the signing of Netherlands’ Sterre Kalis by Northern Diamonds came as a surprise.
While it didn’t start off well for Kalis, she soon found her feet, and the runs started to flow. She finished with 197 runs as Diamonds finished runners up, with Kalis contributing 55 runs in the final as they fell short at Headingley.
How will they fare?
Expect more of the same from Diamonds. They have a very good core of players with plenty of international experience in Linsey Smith, Jenny Gunn, Beth Langston and England contracted players Winfield-Hill, Brunt and Sciver.
Even their non-England players have plenty of experience in the likes of Katie Levick, Rachel Hopkins, and Alex MacDonald. It should be enough to get them through tough games and the younger players like Bess Heath and Ella Telford will learn a lot.
Opening fixture: 29 May, Central Sparks, Headingley