There are many cricketers you could describe using Henry Wadsworth Longfellow quote, “When she was good, she was very good indeed”. Few epitomize this better than Nadine de Klerk, the South African international allrounder. She proved it again today at Seat Unique Riverside, Chester-le-Street, with seven for 33 as The Blaze beat their hosts, Northern Diamonds, to record a victory that at times seemed like it would be a convincing win. Diamonds fought back well, but The Blaze ultimately ended with a four-wicket win to continue their impressive form in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
It was important for The Blaze after their game on Monday at Welbeck was abandoned without a ball bowled. An away trip to Durham against defending champions Northern Diamonds would be their first real test. They passed it not as easily as they wanted to in the end but still by an impressive margin.
There was enough in the pitch that when The Blaze won the toss and opted to bowl, they backed themselves to bowl out a strong Diamonds batting line-up. Lauren Winfield-Hill is averaging 56 this season before today. She was looking to continue her form going into an Ashes summer. Unfortunately, Winfield-Hill was to be de Klerk’s first victim as a miscued cover drive fell into the grateful hands of Kathryn Bryce, and from there, things didn’t get any better for the home side.
Hollie Armitage nailed two glorious shots before she was caught behind by Sarah Bryce for eight to give de Klerk her second victim of the day. Sterre Kalis was given out lbw to Grace Ballinger, the left-arm bowler from the other end, as she got the ball to swing back into the right-handers.
Ballinger was a good foil for de Klerk and finished with three for 23. Both gave little away bowling on the stumps and made life difficult for the Diamonds batters. Ballinger bowled Kathrine Fraser and Abi Glen, beating both with movement off the pitch and proving that the decision to give Kalis lbw may have been a good call.
No Northern Diamonds batter got into double figures. Bess Heath, with 9, was the highest scorer; even the extras were padded with five runs for the ball, hitting the helmet behind the wicketkeeper from the first ball of the match.
Twice during the sorry Diamonds innings, de Klerk was on a hat-trick. The first time she sent her South African teammate Chloe Tryon back for a first-ball duck with an edge to keeper Sarah Bryce. The hat-trick eluded de Klerk, but she set her side up as they bowled Diamonds out for just 62.
Tryon gave her side a glimmer of hope that a fightback might be on when Marrie Kelly caught for 15 but with no pressure on The Blaze batters to go all guns firing, it would be a tough ask. By the time Katie Levick entered the fray, The Blaze needed just 22 runs to win from 43 overs. Any other week Tryon’s four for 16 would have been a match-winner; it was not to be, however.
Tammy Beaumont, trying to sweep Tryon, was caught by Phoebe Turner for nine and shortly added Georgie Boyce for the same score.
Sarah Bryce headed to the middle to join her sister Kathryn and the two Scottish internationals who have been short of runs so far this season were allowed to just bat.
When Sarah Bryce was given lbw to give Levick the breakthrough, there was enough trepidation around the game to suggest this might not be over.
A four-wicket victory was far from the margin that The Blaze would have wanted, but they did so with 137 balls remaining.