Season Preview – Northern Diamonds

Season Preview – Northern Diamonds

2003 was the first season that Northern Diamonds had not made the final since the start of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy back in 2020. It was down to the teams around them improving and being more consistent than anything the Diamonds had done during the previous winter that saw them finish sixth. A fourth-place finish in the Charlotte Edwards Cup saw them miss out on finals day. The retirement of Kathrine Sciver-Brunt would not have helped the cause, or Natalie Sciver-Brunt moving to The Blaze, but there is enough about the rest of the Diamonds squad that should have more than made up for this. 

While on the surface, it didn’t appear to be a successful season, there was plenty to be optimistic about. Hollie Armitage led from the front, earning herself an England call-up and a first cap in New Zealand. Add to that the continued rise of Bess Heath, who made her international debut in the end-of-season series with Sri Lanka. A hard-hitting wicketkeeper/ batter, Heath has the potential to be England’s next keeper and has earned an England development contract, which suggests that England is looking at her abilities closely. Another player who still has England aspirations is Lauren Winfield-Hill. The former Diamonds captain’s chances look to have gone, with other players ahead in the pecking order, but there is no doubt that she is still a dangerous proposition with a bat in hand. Winfield-Hill was the top-scorer for her team again with 663 in the RHF Trophy at an average of 51, with a top score of 116 not out as Diamonds won by seven wickets against an inconsistent South East Stars team at Beckenham. 

Katie Levick is a player that feels like England should have had a look at but haven’t for one reason or another. The leg-spinner had another outstanding summer, taking 25 RHF Trophy wickets at an average of 18.12 and an economy rate of 4.39. 

The pace attack was led by Lizzie Scott and Jess Woolston at 20 and 21, respectively, and with Grace Hall joining the seam bowling options, another young bowler at 21, it means that Diamonds have one of the youngest bowling line-ups of the eight regional teams, with Abi Glen at 23 the older of their quartet. That does not mean they lack any talent; they all generate plenty of swing and, between them, took 42 RHF Trophy wickets, with Woolston the pick of the bunch with 13. Other bowling options include Phoebe Turner, who has looked good with the ball in hand preseason and Sophia Turner. The latter of the two Turners has joined from the other side of the Pennines after a loan spell last season from the Thunder. She is another young bowler who likes to bowl aggressively. Armitage will take on more of a role as a backup spinner with her leg-spin. Erin Burns has been signed from Central Sparks and she took handy wickets with her off-spin last year. The Diamonds will be hoping for that to continue, as well as adding some solidity to their middle order. 

Key Player 

There are a couple of players who could fit this bill. Northern Diamonds would struggle without the consistent runs of Lauren Winfield-Hill, but their real key player is Hollie Armitage, a powerful hitter and a bowler who gets essential wickets at crucial times. A leader who gets things done and deserved her England cap this winter 

Player to watch  

While the stats don’t show it, there was enough in the performances of Leah Dobson to suggest that this could be her breakthrough year. A batter keen to keep the scoring going and a top score of 68 not out hints of bigger things to come. 

How will they fare 

Semi-finals in both competitions are a real possibility, and having the players to do it will depend on how their young bowling attack fair, taking some of the strain off Katie Levick. 

Opening fixture 

Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy: 20 April 2024 v Thunder, Seat Unique Riverside, Chester-le-Street 


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