Lauren Winfield-Hill said that she was “chuffed to bits” after top-scoring for Northern Diamonds in a hard-fought final against Southern Vipers on Sunday at Lord’s, which saw Diamonds secure their first ever regional title by just two runs.
“We’ve come close to the Vipers a few times now and we’ve got a few wounds against them,” she said. “We managed to hold our nerve.”
The match-winning performance came just a few weeks after she helped Oval Invincibles sweep to victory in the Women’s Hundred at the same ground – rounding off a prolific season with the bat.
She was the overall leading run-scorer in the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy with 470 runs; and earlier finished fourth in our Hundred batting rankings.
“My form this summer’s been the best it’s ever been, in terms of different competitions, different oppositions, different surfaces – I’ve adapted better than I ever have before,” she said.
The remarkable thing about her recent performances is that they have come after the most difficult winter of her career, during which she was dispensed with by England two matches into the World Cup.
“It’s no secret that I’ve found the winter hard, the bubbles hard, being dropped from England hard. I could barely even function as a human being. I was in a pretty dark place,” she said, after struggling to hold back tears in the post-match presentation.
“To be able to turn it around, fall in love with the game and take pressure off myself, enjoy what’s in front of me, has been the most enjoyable bit. I’ve loved every game, and that’s reflected in how I’ve performed. I’ve done a lot of work to get myself back into that place, and it’s nice seeing the fruits of that.”
What enabled Diamonds to finally get over the line after twice falling at the final hurdle to Vipers in the 2020 and 2021 RHF finals? Winfield-Hill pointed to the way that numerous players in the squad had stepped up at crucial times, including 21-year-old Bess Heath, who has had a breakthrough season in the middle order and scored 44 runs at No.6 in Sunday’s final.
“It’s not been a one-man band. That’s been our real strength,” Winfield-Hill said. “This year our preparation, how tight we’ve been as a team, how many people have contributed at different times was the difference this year that enabled us to get over the line.”
“I was in and out last year with England stuff,” she added. “It’s been nice to feel part of it this year, rather than the adopted one that just comes in every now and again.”
With an increasingly professional set-up at domestic level, it’s more important now than ever that consistency in regional cricket is valued on its own terms, rather than seeing runs in the RHF and CE Cup purely as a means to an end – that end being a place in an England squad.
The door may currently be closed on an England return for Winfield-Hill; but so what? Being instrumental in Diamonds winning their maiden title, and doing it at Lord’s – that’s a pretty good day to wrap up a monumental season at the office.