Preview: Storm vs Diamonds, Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy

Katie Levick urges the Northern Diamonds to keep going and continue their hunt for more trophies in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

The Diamonds, champions in 2022, are on course for success in this year’s 50-over competition after winning five of their first seven matches.

It was an excellent first half of the season and star leg-spinner Levick and Co. are in third place in the table with 21 points, just two points behind the top spot in the group stage (Southern Vipers).

More importantly, they are eight points clear of fifth-placed Blaze – the top four teams after 14 group matches all advanced to the semifinals in September. The signs are encouraging, but Levick knows there is still a lot of work ahead.

They face bottom-placed Western Storm at picturesque Cheltenham College on Sunday (10.30am), following their recent victory over Central Sparks in Scarborough last Sunday, in which Levick took a superb four wickets.

Levick said: “There are no easy games anymore in this competition, everyone is really ambitious.

Katie Levick

Image by John Clifton/ Katie Levick celebrates taking one of her four wickets against Sparks at Scarborough on Sunday.

“We are playing away at Cheltenham and so it is just about delivering another good performance as a whole team.

“It will do us a lot of good to have the Scarborough game behind us. We will just try to keep the momentum going and make sure we qualify as early as possible.”

The Diamonds beat Sparks quite comfortably last weekend, reaching 240 with six overs to spare to win.

And they are in excellent form at the moment. Immediately before the resumption of 50-over cricket, they won their last two Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 matches, although they did nothing to help them qualify for the final day.

They also recorded a resounding 413-9 win over the Netherlands in a 50-over friendly at Headingley on Tuesday.

They won by 189 runs in a match in which Emma Marlow scored 97 runs and took three wickets. Erin Burns hit an unbeaten 113 runs while Levick struck twice as the visitors reached 224-9.

Emma Marlow

Image by John Clifton/ Emma Marlow is in top form at the moment, reflected in her 97th win in this week’s friendly against the Dutch national team, which also included her regional teammate Sterre Kalis.

“It’s weird when you take a break for another competition, you can kind of forget your swing,” Levick continued.

“Things went well for us in the 50 overs, we got four wins in the first block and we wanted to continue that against Sparks.

“We didn’t have the T20 competition we wanted but we got two wins and took those to Scarborough, so it was really satisfying to start the new block with a win.

“We always think we are better in 50 overs than we are in T20, but you can’t deny that the last memory may be a defeat. That’s why it was important to carry the performances (two late T20 wins) into the 50 overs, where I think we really excel. And we did that.”

Levick is having another impressive summer, with her 14 wickets in the current RHFT making her one of the competition’s leading wicket-takers.

She also took 14 wickets in the Charlotte Edwards Cup.

Image by Allan McKenzie/ Spin to win! Katie Levick bowls during this year’s RHF Trophy.

In total, the Sheffield-born twirler took 124 wickets for the Diamonds in competitive matches during the regional era that began in the summer of 2020.

“I was really pleased,” she said, reflecting on her 4-46 return against the Sparks in Scarborough. “T20 can be a tough competition, especially if you’re a bowler. But it was nice to play for a long time in this game.”

“I always enjoy playing in Scarborough – it is one of my favorite places.

“There is a lot for the bowlers to do and it was nice to get a turn.

“It was a nice first game in the 50-overs. Hopefully it continues like this.”

This match is part of the almost month-long Cheltenham Cricket Festival in Gloucestershire.

Phoebe Turner

Image by John Heald. Phoebe Turner scored twice against the Sparks at Scarborough on Sunday, having scored three times against the Storm at Headingley earlier in the season.

From last Sunday to Friday 19 July, Gloucestershire men played one County Championship match and three Vitality Blast matches at the College ground.

The Storm will play two matches for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, while England’s U19 team will face Sri Lanka in a men’s youth friendly there.

Storm’s captain is batswoman Sophie Luff and their foreign player is Australian leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington.

They have won two and lost five of their first seven matches, losing their last match last Sunday by seven wickets to champions and leaders Southern Vipers as they failed to defend their 156 total.

Bess Heath is unlikely to be available for this match as she is involved in England’s T20 international match. England begin a five-match series against New Zealand this weekend.

Diamonds beat Storm by 10 runs at Headingley in late April, with the score at 275-9. Captain Hollie Armitage scored an excellent 103. Abi Glen and Phoebe Turner took three wickets each and bowled Storm out for 265 runs in return.

Image by Allan McKenzie/ Hollie Armitage leaves the field with a century against Storm at Headingley in April.