Northern Diamonds aim to sparkle against Southern Vipers in Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final

THEY say that cliches are cliches for a reason.

Northern Diamonds star: Sterre Kalis. Pictures: SWPix

Asked what her message will be to her players ahead of tomorrow’s final of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, which sees her Northern Diamonds side take on Southern Vipers at Edgbaston, coach Danielle Hazell put it like this.

“I think it’s just that old cliche of ‘enjoy it’, isn’t it?” she said.

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“Some of the girls may never get this chance again, or they may never have played in front of the Sky television cameras before.

Looking for runs: Hollie Armitage of Northern Diamonds.

“That’s obviously going to be a bit nerve-wracking for them, so I think they’ve just got to try and enjoy it.

“At the end of the day, we’re all lucky to be playing cricket this year, what with all the stuff that’s still going on, and just fortunate to get an opportunity to play in these games.

“So it’s all about trying to make the most of the opportunity and trying to enjoy it as much as possible.”

As a former England international herself, a spinner with deceptive pace and flight, Hazell, 32, knows how to cope with big occasions and pressure situations.

In charge: Danielle Hazell.

It will surely help to have someone with her know-how and experience in the Diamonds’ corner.

“Yeah, I suppose it will, but you can only say so much to them,” she added.

“They’ve kind of just got to find their own way and deal with it all as best they can.

“You can always give little bits of advice along the way – try and ignore the cameras around as much as you can, things like that, because there will be a little bit more hoo-hah before this game, shall we say, a few more people hanging around, and so on.

“But it all comes back to the fact that you’ve got to enjoy it.

“It should be a really exciting experience for all of the players.”

Hazell’s girls have shown no sign of stage fright en route to the final.

They comfortably topped the North Group in the 50-over tournament, played as a one-off this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with five victories in six matches.

Diamonds launched their campaign with a nine-wicket win against Central Sparks at Edgbaston and a nine-run triumph against Lightning at Chester-le-Street over the August Bank Holiday, helped by the availability of their England players.

They followed that with a two-wicket win against Lightning at Grace Road and a 73-run triumph against Thunder at Liverpool.

Diamonds then suffered their only defeat to date, losing by six wickets at Emerald Headingley to Central Sparks, who finished 10 points behind them in second position.

But they got back in the saddle with a six-wicket win against Thunder at Headingley to book their place in the final, and they are full of confidence going into the fixture against a Southern Vipers outfit who won all six of their group games.

“We’ve got nothing to lose,” insisted Hazell.

“The girls have done well to get as far as they have and they’ve certainly got the ability and talent to win it (the trophy).

“They (the Vipers) have obviously done well, six wins from six and a good comp down south.

“We’ll do a little bit of work on their players beforehand, but really it’s all about concentrating on ourselves and what we can do.

“If we can do that, then I think we’ll be absolutely fine.

“We’ve easily got the players on paper to do it and to help get us over the line.

“It’s up to them now, and I know that the girls will be giving it everything they’ve got.

“I know the ability of these girls and what they can do.”

Perhaps the best situation for any coach is not to be reliant on just one or two players.

A feature of Diamonds’ run to the final – helped by the availability of their England players at the outset – is that everyone has contributed at some point or other in what has been the archetypal “team effort”.

“The pleasing thing is that everybody has contributed in their own way,” said Hazell.

“That’s not always scoring hundreds and taking five-fors, but it is about taking key wickets and scoring key runs when it matters the most.

“You don’t want to be relying on just one or two people each time, so it has been quite refreshing that all the girls have really chipped in, whether that be with an important 30, or whether that be with a 60, a 70, a five-for or whatever. It’s been refreshing and they’ll go into the final with plenty of confidence.”

With the England players currently in Derby for a T20 series against the West Indies, it will be up to the girls who have primarily got Diamonds to this stage to see them home.

It also promises to be a showpiece occasion for women’s cricket, building on the momentum of recent years as the sport continues to progress from strength to strength.

“It’s been really important, this competition, to help keep women’s cricket on the map,” added Hazell.

“It’s just what was needed and it was a great effort from the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) to get this tournament up and running. I think it’s worked really well; we haven’t had massive amounts of travel, or anything like that, and it’s been a really good standard of cricket.

“We’re really happy with how we’ve got ourselves to the final, and all the girls are looking forward now to the game at Edgbaston.”

The match starts at 10.30am.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson