Northern Diamonds forced into Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy shootout after defeat to Southern Vipers

Southern Vipers beat Northern Diamonds by five wickets at the Ageas Bowl with seven balls to spare, to finish top of the table and book a place in next Saturday’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final.

Georgia Elwiss steered her side home in a tricky chase for the second time in as many matches, following up last week’s century with a magnificent unbeaten 84 (77 balls), after captain Georgia Adams had led from the front with a second consecutive half-century.

Diamonds had opted to bat first but were bowled out for 256 in 48.3 overs, despite a galloping 71 from 51 balls for Bess Heath and a career-best 49 from Leah Dobson. The Northern side were pegged back early by Lauren Bell, who returned 2-29 in her 10 overs including two maidens in her opening four-over spell, and though the middle-order proved resurgent, their slow start cost them. Diamonds, as runners-up in the table, will now host the second-third place play-off on Wednesday.

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Vipers had been 7-1 in the fourth over of their chase after Heath ran out Ella McCaughan with a direct hit from behind the stumps – revenge for McCaughan’s own two run outs in the Diamonds innings, which had seen off both Dobson and Heath herself.

Leah Dobson: The Northern Diamonds star hit a career-best 49 but it was in a losing effort at Southern Vipers. (Picture: SWPix.com)

Maia Bouchier (40) shared a 67-run stand with Adams to steady the ship, punching hard through the leg side, but both were caught on the ring off Phoebe Graham.

Graham (3-44) also trapped Gaby Lewis LBW for 39, and Emily Windsor was run out with 31 runs still needed. Elwiss, though, finished the job in the 49th over by lofting the ball over the head of Linsey Smith for four.

Earlier, Diamonds had been in trouble at 105-4 after 30 overs, after skipper Armitage (21) played on and Bouchier, bowling for only the second time in the competition after her action was cleared in July, had Sterre Kalis (23) stumped off a leg-side wide with her first ball. Bell’s second spell then yielded the wicket of Ami Campbell (26), caught at mid-on. Even without the injured Jenny Gunn, Diamonds’ middle-order proved resurgent – 84 runs were added between overs 31 and 40, including a quickfire 37 from 42 balls from Smith. Heath grew in confidence, whalloping two huge sixes over the leg side. But after she was run out colliding with Smith, Diamonds lost their final four wickets for eight runs.

Bess Heath of the Northern Diamonds (Picture: SWPix.com)