Martin Saxon reports from Cheshire
An emphatic victory for the Northern ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Yorkshire’ Diamonds over ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Lancashire’ Thunder not only restored some local bragging rights – after Thunder won the T20 clash earlier in the year and Manchester Originals won the Northern derby in the Hundred – but also took Diamonds to Finals Day as winners of the group, after other results went their way.
This was effectively the Roses clash in all but name and, while almost all of the Thunder eleven are drawn from the Red Rose county, this match, like all but one of the Thunder home matches in 2021, was played in Cheshire. Much has been made of how the women’s regional teams are making higher scores when they play on first-class county grounds, but the Chester Boughton Hall club ground – staging its fourth women’s regional match of the season today – is a batting paradise by any measure, and Diamonds certainly made hay as they strolled to their target of 91 with eight wickets and 46 balls in hand.
There was certainly nothing in the pitch to excuse a first innings score of 90-9, but the Diamonds bowlers never allowed Thunder to really build any momentum. There were brief promising signs, such as Georgie Boyce leading the way when 20 were scored in the first three overs, Laura Marshall hitting some good shots as 26 after five became 42 from seven, and Kate Cross taking ten from the 13th over.
However, once Cross had departed, Thunder managed just two boundaries and 23 runs from the remaining seven overs. The standout bowlers during this period were Linsey Smith, who conceded one from the 16th over and two from the last; Alex Macdonald, who ensured the score only advanced by three during the 18th over; and Jenny Gunn, who struck three times in four deliveries in the 19th.
Amongst a series of unT20-like statistics, eight Thunder batters had a strike rate of 64 or less, with Cross’s 127 the only one to better a run per ball. Danielle Collins was the top scorer with just 16. The bowling economy rates also looked very unusual for this format, with the relatively expensive Rachel Slater and Katie Levick still conceding less than six per over, while Macdonald’s 0-14, Smith’s 2-12 and Gunn’s 4-15 return literally speak for themselves.
Diamonds completed their massive win without a major contribution from their taliswoman Lauren Winfield-Hill – only 34 were needed when she faced her first delivery, and she ultimately scored just five. Instead, Bess Heath cut, drove and pulled her way to an unbeaten 58 from 40 deliveries, with her ten fours matching the entire boundary count from the Thunder innings.
On this wretched day for the North West team, Hannah Jones was at least able to cement her growing reputation, conceding just 12 runs from four overs and bagging the prize wicket of Winfield-Hill, all just two days after she saved Thunder from defeat to Sunrisers by only conceding four from the final over.
Sterner tests await the Diamonds in Sunday’s Finals Day, but this performance may have given them the confidence and momentum needed to challenge for the trophy.
Martin Saxon is the Vice Chair and Press Officer of the Cheshire Women’s Cricket League
Brilliant from Smith and Heath, well done Diamonds. Don’t want only southern teams able to win everything. Smith has quietly continued her strong form from the Hundred in the CE Cup, and might have gone unnoticed by some, but her returns have consistently been very good. It’s also nice to see Heath succeeding, as she didn’t have the best of times in the Hundred but since has done well higher up the order.
There now seem to be so many good domestic players that England’s uncapped second string options, if needed in the unfortunate (and hopefully unlikely!) event of a major Covid outbreak in the main squad, would be impressive and I think would put up a good fight against many international sides. I wasn’t sure that would ever be the case, so the advent of professionalism appears to be working and making a real difference in that respect.