Hollie Armitage determined to make Northern Diamonds sparkle

AFTER lifting silverware during a fine winter season in Australia, Northern Diamonds’ newly-appointed captain Hollie Armitage is determined to bring success to Emerald Headingley this summer.

New captain: Hollie Armitage. Picture: SWPix

Huddersfield-born Armitage has enjoyed better preparation than most ahead of the women’s domestic campaign, as she captained Tasmanian side Clarence CC to victory in a 50-over competition earlier this year.

The 23-year-old scored a century in the final, with that show of leadership leaving Diamonds director of cricket James Carr to describe her as the “prime candidate” to take on the captaincy this season.

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The all-rounder had her first taste of the sport at Meltham CC on the outskirts of Huddersfield.

She is now one of the Diamonds’ most valuable players and this year became one of five squad members to receive a full-time contract at the club.

Armitage hopes this is just the start and believes the next step for the women’s game is having teams full of contracted players.

“It is great, it puts your mind at ease knowing it is your full-time job,” said Armitage.

“You come to train and know that is all you need to focus on. I have been out in Australia all winter as well, so I have played quite a lot of cricket.

Experienced: Jenny Gunn.

“I am grateful for all that and hopefully in a few years to come we can have 15 contracted players rather than just having five.

“I think that will help with the shift in women’s domestic cricket as well.

“With how the women’s game has changed over the years, the next step is having more contracted players. It makes a bigger pool of players for the England team as well.

“I was at Loughborough University for four years so this is the first time I have been a full-time professional.

Key player: Lauren Winfield-Hill.

“I am really happy to be one of the five Northern Diamonds contracted players.”

The Diamonds get their 2021 campaign started today against Central Sparks in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy at Headingley.

A total of 41 female players have signed full-time professional domestic contracts – in addition to 17 centrally contracted England players – with a T20 competition also set to get underway at the end of next month.

The Diamonds reached the final of last year’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and Armitage is keen to go one better this time around.

Pace threat: Katherine Brunt.

“There has been a big build-up to it. We have got a long season ahead of us and the girls are ready and raring to get out on the pitch and showcase what they have been working on all winter,” she said.

“I am excited and I think all the girls are, it has been a long winter for a lot of them.

“They are looking forward to showcasing their stuff in the first game. There will probably be a lot of nerves but everyone is ready to rock and roll.

“We want to be finalists for the Rachel Heyhoe comp and the T20 comp.

“We did really well to make it to the final last year but as a team we are looking good and we want to take that extra step and bring home some silverware.”

Armitage will captain a side that contains England stars Katherine Brunt, Nat Sciver, Winfield-Hill and former World Cup and Ashes winner Jenny Gunn.

“That’s a little bit daunting in a way,” she admitted.

“But they respect that I’m still learning and will be helping me along the way.

“I’m someone who’s not going to change.

“I’m still going to be Hollie Armitage, one of their mates who won’t shy away from the social stuff. I still want to enjoy playing with my friends.”

Gunn is one of the most experienced players in the game.

She was one of the first women to be awarded a central contract by England and she enjoyed an illustrious international career and was the first cricketer – man or woman – to play in 100 T20 international matches.

“You couldn’t ask for a more experienced player in your side and also someone that is a really genuine person as well,’’ said Armitage.

“She is a magnificent person to have at your club and I am really happy she is on my team. Especially for the younger players, she is really easy to talk to and always willing to help. She is good at giving all the knowledge she has got.”

With more Covid-19 restrictions lifted earlier this month, a limited-capacity crowd will be in attendance at Headingley today.

“It brings a completely different buzz around the ground,” said Armitage.

“When we play at Headingley, that is going to be the first time there will be crowds in the cricket ground since the pandemic.

“It is a really exciting time for us and we just hope that carries on throughout the season.

“There are lots of protocols in place but it is really exciting to have crowds – and friends and family coming to watch, that is something that the players have missed.”

There may also be some younger fans in the crowd, with Armitage feeling the progress of the women’s game is providing more female role models for aspiring players.

“People aren’t aware that there are lots of younger girls looking up to people like us,” she said.

“And that is all of us, contracted and non-contracted players, you are probably still being a role model to younger girls.

“That is really exciting and hopefully this is just the start of something.”

Armitage scored 290 runs and took five wickets when she represented Yorkshire in the Women’s Twenty20 Cup earlier this year.

She is aiming to add bigger scores in each game she plays this year as she heads into the campaign with Northern Diamonds in fine form.

“This season I want to be getting 70-plus scores in every game and contribute to the team in that way,” she added.

“Last season, I felt good but I was hitting consistent 30s, which wasn’t me stepping up.

“That is the biggest thing I have learned this year – backing my ability and batting 100 balls and putting on those big performances.”

The top-order batter and leg-spinner’s form suggest she might not be far away from senior international honours with England.

“You just have to take each game as it comes,” she insisted.

“It’s not something that I particularly think about.

“I just want to concentrate on the moment, the here and now.

“That is trying to score runs and take wickets to get the team into winning positions.

“If anything came on top of that, fantastic.”