Match Preview: Northern Diamonds vs Thunder
Northern Diamonds v Thunder at Headingley
Charlotte Edwards Cup, Group B
Saturday June 26, 2021, 2.30pm
Thunder coach Paul Shaw is expecting hints of the Hundred tactics to filter into the early stages of the Women’s Regional T20 competition, which starts on Saturday with a blockbuster ‘Roses’ clash.
The Thunder face the Northern Diamonds at Emerald Headingley (2.30pm) in the newly named Charlotte Edwards Cup aiming to build on their impressive recent 50-over win over previously unbeaten Central Sparks.
A new competition, yes, but Shaw’s side are high on confidence, also highlighted by midweek warm-up wins over the Lightning, in which Emma Lamb scored a breathtaking 134 not out.
Talking of new competitions, the Hundred begins late next month, with the majority of women’s domestic players involved. The Thunder squad certainly forms the basis of the Manchester Originals squad.
The ECB summer schedule has been understandably designed to give players short format preparation for that new competition.
“I think you’ll see two good sides on display on Saturday, for sure,” said Shaw.
“The Diamonds are very good, shown by last season and their start to this, and we’ve played some excellent cricket so far as well.
“We’re very confident at the minute and are really looking forward to it.
“T20 is an interesting format because against really good opposition you’re more in the game.
“It is also really important because we’ve got the Hundred just after that. And a lot of our players are part of that Manchester Originals squad.
“We want to use it to try and win games of cricket, but we’re also getting ready for the Hundred.
“I think you will see teams using the Regional competition to experiment to some degree ahead of the Hundred.
“Captains who will be captaining the Hundred will be looking at their batting and bowling combinations and trialling a few different things.”
Despite this not being an authentic Roses fixture, the rivalry is definitely still there. Thunder captain Alex Hartley said exactly that earlier this week, and Shaw agrees.
“It’s not rose versus rose in the traditional sense, but it’s still one side of the Pennines against the other,” said Shaw. “And it’s a really big game.
“There’s definitely a bit more spice on this fixture than the others we play.
“When you’re playing a game at Headingley, which is a fabulous venue, it’s that bit more special - as I’m sure it will be whenever the Diamonds come across and play at Emirates Old Trafford.
“Both will be going hard at each other.”
Barnsley-born Shaw has his coaching fingers in a few pies and continues to work with the White Rose men as a coach on a consultancy basis. He also knows many of the Diamonds players very well.
Given Yorkshire’s men play Northamptonshire in the Vitality Blast in the evening, it will be a special day for Shaw.
“It’s part of a double header at Headingley, and it will be an exciting day,” he said.
“It’s obviously an interesting one for me because I’ve been working with all of the wicketkeepers in the Yorkshire men’s squad.
“I’ve also worked within the women’s set-up over there and know a number of their players really well.”
The Thunder aren’t the only ones in buoyant mood.
The Diamonds have won three of their opening four 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy games and sit top of the table at present.
The Thunder won their last RHF Trophy game in thrilling fashion against the Central Sparks at New Road the Saturday before last, ending the Midlands side’s unbeaten start to the summer. They have won two of four in all.
The Diamonds will include a familiar face to a number of the Thunder squad in Sarah Taylor, the former England wicketkeeper.
Taylor played one season of Kia Super League cricket with the Lancashire Thunder in 2017.
The England legend retired at the end of 2019, but has come back into the game this summer to play for the Welsh Fire in the Hundred next month.
She has joined the Diamonds on a short-term basis as cover for England’s Lauren Winfield-Hill and injured Bess Heath. She debuted in their 50-over win over South East Stars almost a fortnight ago.
While Winfield-Hill, Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver are all on England ODI duty for the Diamonds, Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone are unavailable to the Thunder for the same reason.
The eight regions are split into two groups. The best placed group winner advances directly to the final on September 5 (Finals Day).
Beforehand, an effective semi-final will be played between the other group winner and the best second-placed team across the two groups.
This is the first time the two regions have met in T20 cricket, but they played twice in last season’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint 50-over Trophy, with the Diamonds winning twice unfortunately.
The first was at Liverpool - by 73 runs - and the second at Emerald Headingley, when they won the final group game by six wickets in mid-September.
The Thunder, having elected to bat, slipped to 8-2 before 29 from opener Georgie Boyce, 32 from Nat Brown and 19 for Rebecca Duckworth at least gave them respectability at 143 all out. Former England quick Beth Langston led the way with three wickets for the hosts.
But it wasn’t enough, as an unbeaten 55 from Dutch international batter Sterre Kalis sealed the points for a Diamonds side who went on to get beaten in the final by the Southern Vipers.
Spinners Alex Hartley, Hannah Jones and Libby Heap all struck added to a run out as the total was knocked off inside 30 overs.
One to watch:
It has to be Emma Lamb! It can’t be anybody else after her brilliant warm-up innings of 134 at the top of the order against the Lightning earlier this week.
The Thunder won both T20 warm-ups in the East Midlands.
In the second, Lamb scored a 62-ball century and went from 93 to 134 in just 11 balls in an incredible display of hitting.
At the start of the RHF Trophy, she scored a century in defeat against the Western Storm at Bristol. Can she do the same in another opening fixture, but this time in victory?
Lamb’s off-spin will also be a key part of the Thunder’s route to victory at Headingley tomorrow.