RHF TROPHY FINAL: Shine On You Crazy Diamonds

Yorkshire Diamonds, as they were known then (and probably will be known again, along with Surrey Stars and Lancashire Thunder, as soon as they think the ECB’s backs are turned) didn’t have too much luck in the Kia Super League – they never qualified for Finals Day, and their best finish was 4th in 2019.

This always felt slightly incongruous, as Yorkshire had traditionally been one of the stronger sides in the Women’s County Championship, and indeed finished runners up 3 times during the KSL years, in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

So it was difficult to know how the “Northern” Diamonds would go in regionals this year – would we see Yorkshire CCC in the County Championship or Yorkshire Diamonds in the KSL?

The first two rounds of the RHF Trophy saw the Diamonds thump the Sparks by 9 wickets, with Katherine Brunt taking a 5fer and Lauren Winfield hitting 72 off 71 balls. The following day, they beat the Lightning by 9 runs, thanks to a century from Nat Sciver. This put the Diamonds firmly out on top of the North Group.

But there was a problem – all their big performances had come from England players, who were about to go back into their COVID-secure bubble and would play no further part in the group stages. As we wrote after that opening weekend, take out the England players and they were bottom of the table, not top. This wasn’t “southern bias” – it was just the numbers – and they didn’t look good for the Diamonds.

But the Diamonds defied those numbers, as other players stood up in the stead of the England stars – Jenny Gunn dug them out of a hole against Lightning; Sterre Kalis made 87 against the Sparks; Alex MacDonald hit 92 and Katie Levick took 3-22 versus the Thunder; while Beth Langston took 3-18 and Kalis again made runs in the final match, also against the Thunder. They finished the group stages with just 1 loss, to the Sparks, and 5 wins, to qualify for the final at Edgbaston.

In front of the TV cameras at Edgbaston, with Lauren Winfield opting to come back to play in the final ahead of the off-chance of a late-order knock against the Windies in Derby, they chose to bowl first, and put in a fantastic performance. It was normal in the old County Championship for a batting team to look to see off the opening bowlers and then make hay later; but the Diamonds gave no quarter – the Vipers saw off Beth Langston and Linsey Smith, but they were only replaced by the perfectly nagging lines and lengths of Phoebe Graham and the dangerous legspin of the leading wicket taker of all time in the County Championship, Katie Levick… and even when they’d seen them off, they had to contend with all the years of experience of Jenny Gunn!

The Diamonds were also fabulous in the field, keeping a tight circle and letting absolutely nothing through. Georgia Adams’ knock of 80 would surely have been a century against any other team in regionals this season, but she just couldn’t get it through the ring. Fielding is usually the biggest difference between the professional sides and the amateurs, even up to international level, but this Diamonds side of still mostly amateurs look every bit the pros in the field.

Keeping the best batting line-up in the RHF to 231, on one of the best pitches these players will ever get to play on, was an achievement that deserved a medal; but unfortunately it wasn’t to be for the Diamonds.

Despite a fielding performance from the Vipers that was as inexplicably inept as the Diamonds had been brilliant, their batters couldn’t keep their heads against Charlotte Taylor’s arm balls, and like the wives of Henry VIII they fell one by one.

But that’s professional sport – for someone to win, someone else has to lose. To return to our opening theme, it was the County Championship Yorkshire that turned up in the RHF… and they turned up so precisely that for the 4th year running they found themselves pipped at the post into second place.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride? No – not never – these Diamonds will be back next year, and I for one won’t be betting against them.