PREVIEW: Northern Diamonds vs Thunder
Northern Diamonds v Thunder, Charlotte Edwards Cup, Group B, Sunday May 29th, 2022 (11am) Headingley
Paul Shaw believes Thunder’s win over Northern Diamonds in the Charlotte Edwards Cup at Sale last Wednesday was their best in regional cricket.
Thunder stunned a Diamonds side including England stars Nat Sciver and Lauren Winfield-Hill by 56 runs, bowling them out for 92 chasing 149.
In-form openers Georgie Boyce and Emma Lamb scored half-centuries before left-arm spinner Hannah Jones claimed three wickets.
Now they are bidding to repeat the trick when the two sides meet again at Headingley on Sunday, the first game of T20 double header with Yorkshire’s men.
It is must win for both teams as they bid to make Finals Day next month given they are level on five points with one win from three group fixtures.
“A couple of times last year we played some really good cricket, but to do it against a top side like the Diamonds - with the England players they had available and also an overseas - I think it’s our best performance to date as a region,” said coach Shaw.
“We batted, bowled and fielded well, so we’d certainly like to press repeat.
“But I’m sure the Diamonds will have a very good side out with England players on duty, etc. It will be a tough task, but one we’re really looking forward to.”
Thunder will miss Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone due to Women’s IPL Challenge duty in India, but they could be available for the last one or two games of the CE Cup.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, that Sale success was sandwiched in between defeats against Southern Vipers at Hove and Lightning at Leicester, the latest on Saturday when they failed to defend a target of 153.
“With a young side, it’s quite challenging to get performance after performance,” continued the former England coach. “We were hoping for that against Lightning on Saturday, but it didn’t quite happen.
“We played pretty well with the bat and got 152 before Tammy Beaumont got going and took the game away from us. We were just off the mark a bit with the ball and 20 runs shy with the bat.”
This is a must win for both teams in order to maintain hopes of Finals Day, for which only the top team in each of the two groups qualifies plus the best second-placed finisher.
Thunder and Diamonds have identical records in second and third in Group B and are separated only by the Thunder’s superior net run-rate.
With three games remaining and a maximum of five points for a win, they are nine behind leaders Southern Vipers (14). Group A is headed by Central Sparks on 13, while South East Stars - the reigning champions - are second with eight points.
“To be honest, I think we’ll need three wins,” said Shaw.
"But, as you know, it’s a bit of an old cliche, ‘Take each game at a time’.
“Clearly, though, you look at the tables with how the Southern Vipers are going in ours and the Central Sparks in the other group and you think, ‘We’re going to have to play well and get some victories to get to Finals Day’.
“Let’s try and get the win Sunday first, get that confidence high and then anything can happen.”
While these two sets of players are no strangers to playing at big venues - last year’s corresponding fixture was played at Headingley, which Thunder won - Shaw says there remains “something extra special” about walking out at international venues.
And Thunder do so with a red hot opening partnership in Lamb and Boyce, who have shared 36, 95 and 130 to start the campaign. Both posted fifties against Diamonds and Lightning.
“It’s a pleasure to watch them bat at the moment. Long may that continue,” said Shaw.
“It’s not just the way they’re striking the ball, but also the way they’re rotating strike. We want our players to be positive, both in attack and defence. If you can’t strike the ball, can you get ones and twos?
“That shows really good game awareness and shows you where they’re at.”
Shaw also reserved high praise for new ball seamer Laura Jackson, whose last two appearances have yielded the wickets of England stars Sciver, Winfield-Hill and Tammy Beaumont.
He said: “Jacko’s a great example of someone in regional cricket, nationally, who has grabbed the bull by the horns and gained a contract on performance.
“Everything has developed for her in the last 12-18 months, her batting, fielding, bowling, fitness, mentality.
“And to take three scalps of Sciver, Winfield-Hill and Beaumont is phenomenal. Hopefully that just builds her confidence.
“It hasn’t been easy for her with what she’s been through (recent loss of her mother). It’s really tough. But the way she’s managed that with the support of the team and set-up, it’s a credit to her, her family and the Thunder as well.”
Player to watch
Hannah Jones has made an encouraging start to the summer, claiming four wickets in her three games, including that match-clinching three-for at Sale last week.
The left-arm spinner is improving at a rapid rate and should enjoy the bigger boundaries on offer at Headingley.
Jones is set for a key few months in her development.
She gained England A recognition last summer and impressed for, Lancashire and the Manchester Originals as well Thunder, claiming 30 wickets.
The 22-year-old already has 11 to her name this summer, and if she can better that 30 this summer then who knows what the winter could bring.
Helter-skelter is the best way to describe Thunder’s 56-run success over the Diamonds at Sale last Wednesday.
At one point, across both innings combined, nine wickets fell for the addition of only 20 runs.
Thunder looked well set for more than the 148-7 they ended up compiling having elected bat.
Emma Lamb (50) and Georgie Boyce (65) shared 95 for the first wicket inside 13 overs, but Diamonds leg-spinner Katie Levick claimed 4-22, including three wickets in three legitimate balls - there was a wide in there as well - to limit the total.
However, Laura Jackson set the tone with the new ball, bowling both Lauren Winfield-Hill and Nat Sciver as the reply slipped to 8-3. That later became 33-6, and left-arm spinner Hannah Jones finished with 3-23 as the Diamonds were bowled out for 92.