RHF TROPHY: Sparks v Diamonds – Diamond Lights

It is a measure of how far we’ve come in a pretty short space of time that in the “Good Old Days” of the Women’s County Championship… 3 long years ago… 200 runs would get you maximum bonus points. Now it is minimum expectation for a half-decent performance – Stars had an absolute nightmare in one of today’s other games (albeit missing key players to a Commonwealth Games photoshoot) and still got to 198!

So Sparks will have been disappointed to post just 214 against Diamonds on a nicely backed pitch at Worcester. The boundaries were long – only a yard and a half in from those used by the men in the T20 blast – and the ball held up in the sandy outfield; but the other side of that coin was plenty of empty pockets for running ones and twos which Sparks failed to take advantage of for much of their innings.

Eve Jones was the mainstay of the Sparks innings, compiling 91, but she took a long time to get going, taking nearly 50 balls to notch-up her first 20 runs, and only real stepping things up once she’d passed 50. That’s okay if the batter at the other end is going great guns, but Steph Butler, Thea Brookes and Ami Campbell chewed up 97 balls between them, scoring only 42 runs – a Strike Rate of under 45. They could… and should… have done better.

Off-spinner Emma Marlow was the pick of the Diamonds bowling, going for just 13 from 5 overs in the powerplay, and also picking up a couple of wickets towards the back-end of the innings to finish with 2-37 off 10.

Lauren Winfield-Hill has more form than a second hand car dealer in a 70s cop drama right now, and she came out to show the Sparks how they could have played on this track.

The key shot which Winfield-Hill played in her innings of 50 from 55 balls wasn’t any of the eight 4s, but a bunt to cover-point – it went straight to the fielder, but it was played delicately enough for Winfield-Hill to run a sharp single.

Those sharp singles were the runs that Sparks couldn’t find, and with Holly Armitage (60 off 63) and Sterre Kalis (46 off 57) following Winfield-Hill’s example, Diamonds brought up a comfortable victory inside 40 overs.

Sparks will be disappointed to have lost this game – they are 1 from 3 now – but they have got the fixture list on their side, with Thunder, Lightning and Sunrisers all to come, so a top 3 finish is still very much in their own hands; but they will need to step up their intent with the bat a little bit if they want to be challenging for the title at Lords in September.