Match Report – Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy – Central Sparks v Northern...

Match Report – Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy – Central Sparks v Northern Diamonds

Northern Diamonds pinched a last-ball, one-run victory against Central Sparks to win their third game of the season as Hollie Armitage held her nerve in the final over when it looked like her team would lose. 

Both Central Sparks and Diamonds have had indifferent starts to their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy campaigns and when the teams met at Edgbaston, they both had the intent of finally kickstarting their seasons. After winning their opener here a fortnight ago against Midlands rivals The Blaze, Sparks have lost the next three games on the bounce. 

Northern Diamonds had won two of their opening games, but defeat at Scarborough against The Blaze on Wednesday, in a game they were in control of would have hurt and a win was imperative to stay in touch with the leading pack. 

Games between these two teams have been tight affairs in the past, and this game could serve up something exciting on a warm Birmingham day, with the added spice of Erin Burns (49) returning to her former club, Sparks having decided that her services weren’t required this season. As happens on these occasions, she top-scored for her new team. 

Having won the toss and choosing to bat, Diamonds were constantly pegged back by the Sparks bowling. The top order made starts, and after an opening partnership of 45 between Lauren Winfield-Hill (28) and Emma Marlow (20), the middle order was never really able to capitalise. Burns anchored the innings well and missed out on her fifty, falling on 49 as Ria Fackrell took two wickets in an over to leave Diamonds 173 for eight and the prospect of not making it past 200. With the help of a ninth wicket partnership of 43 between Abigail Glen (31 not out) and Jessica Woolston (10), both promising bowlers, the Diamonds reached 216 all out with four balls of their innings unbowled. 

At times, Central Sparks can feel nervous when setting a reasonable target. Some of those nerves would have been relaxed when Eve Jones (65) and Abbey Freeborn (49) added 105 for the second wicket, putting Sparks in control. Jones needed some runs, and her first half-century of the season was a welcome sight for everyone in the Sparks camp. Another century looked well within her grasp until she gave Burns an easy catch and Sophia the breakthrough that the Diamonds needed. 

It was now set up for Katie Levick to spin her web, and she took the wickets of Ami Campbell (4), caught and bowled and Courtney Webb(15) lbw. Suddenly, the Diamonds were back in the game, and the Sparks fans started to get a familiar feeling. Katie George (35), who was an astute signing last season for the Sparks, showed her worth with the bat again. With the underrated Bethan Ellis (23) they set about quietly chasing down the target and their partnership of 56 took the Sparks within 16 runs of victory with 22 balls remaining.  

The Diamonds were sensing Deja Vu as another Midlands team started to wriggle free of their grasp. It wasn’t an end to the drama as theTurners, Phoebe and Sophie combined to dismiss Ellis, and Wong (1) was caught and bowled by Hollie Armitage. The Sparks would need Geroge to keep a cool head as the chase was still under a run-a-ball, and Ria Fackrell at the other end is a capable batter. On Wednesday, Diamonds had to defend ten runs from their final twelve balls; they would be hoping to do better today, but a paddle down to third from Geroge wielded three runs from the first ball of the penultimate over, and the pressure was starting to ease for the home side. 

Three wickets proved costly in the final over, with Geroge caught by Phoebe Turner from the first ball of the last over of the game, and with the new batter Grace Potts stuck on strike, Armitage used her skill and experience to strangle the game. Fackrell, looking to paddle-sweep the fifth ball, was adjudged lbw and Hannah Baker and Potts couldn’t scramble the single to at least salvage a tie from the last ball. 

This defeat will hurt Central Sparks, as they were so close to winning a game that looked for sure to be going in their direction. As for the Diamonds, this could just be the win that kickstarts their season. 


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