Northern Diamonds ready for action following pre-season tour of Mumbai

DANI HAZELL is convinced her Northern Diamonds’ players have enjoyed a productive pre-season tour of Mumbai – ahead of what she hopes will be a successful 2024 campaign.

Hazell and the players returned to Headingley early last week after 10 days in the cricket-mad Indian city.

They trained hard and played two friendlies against regional rivals Central Sparks – one a T20 and the other a 50-over fixture. Unfortunately, they lost both.

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But Hazell said: “The main thing we put across was that we wanted the girls to be brave enough to try out the things they’d been practicing all winter in the hardest environment possible.

BIG YEAR AHEAD: Northern Diamonds' head coach, Danielle Hazell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comBIG YEAR AHEAD: Northern Diamonds' head coach, Danielle Hazell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
BIG YEAR AHEAD: Northern Diamonds' head coach, Danielle Hazell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

“So, playing against regional opposition was that. It was a fantastic work out. There were lots of positives.

“The closer we get to the season, the more results and performances become important. But, at that point, it wasn’t a major priority.

“It was good to get out on grass and start to build that intensity and competitiveness. It was really enjoyable, and it was good for the girls to be out there in a different environment.”

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The Diamonds will now ramp up their preparations for the start of the regional summer on April 20 – a Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy clash with Lancashire Thunder at Durham’s Riverside.

“Weather dependent, we have some internal games before then,” continued the coach. “We have one next week and a friendly against the Blaze the week after. Then we are into it the season.

“We may well look for another opportunity to get some game time, but if not hopefully the weather will allow us to get plenty of middle practice.”

Hollie Armitage has returned home from international duty in New Zealand, a trip which saw the Diamonds captain make her senior England debut and also score a big century for the A team.

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Armitage didn’t travel with the squad to Mumbai, neither did her England team-mate Bess Heath, who is still in New Zealand.

Their absences allowed Hazell to give players opportunities elsewhere in the Diamonds team during the aforementioned Sparks friendlies.

“We were able to give players chances to bat higher in the order, and in each game we wanted to give bowlers the opportunity to bowl in different phases,” she said.

“We wanted to expose certain bowlers to bowling at the death or with the new ball.

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“As the friendlies whittle down, the Blaze game for example, that will be us looking to nail down our final choices and roles.

“Hollie is back with us and will be phased into things over the next week or so. Bess is still out in New Zealand, and we will be having conversations over a similar time frame with England as to where she sits availability wise.”

The Diamonds will start the season with a bit more juggling to do on the availability front given three of their players are going to be involved in the ICC’s T20 World Cup global qualifier event in the UAE between April 25 and May 7.

Sterre Kalis will be in the Netherlands squad, while Katherine Fraser and Rachel Slater are involved with Scotland.

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The Scots fly to the UAE on April 7 for a warm-up series, and if they reach the final it means the duo will likely miss the first six Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy matches. Kalis’s situation may be slightly more favourable.

“We’ll see how it pans out,” said Hazell, who is looking at that particular event with a glass half full approach.

“That’s part and parcel of it now. There’s so much cricket going on.

“But, as much as it can give you a headache as a coach, it’s just part of the game.

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“It’s a good thing. We want to grow the game around the world, and these girls are going to be playing more in these competitions, which is fantastic for their growth.

“It’s nothing that we haven’t dealt with before.

“Someone not being here just gives another player an opportunity.

“If we don’t give them an opportunity, they’ll never know and we’ll never know.”

This will, of course, be the last season with the Diamonds as is, given eight county hosted Tier One teams will replace the existing regions from 2025 onwards.

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And Hazell and co are hoping to end what has already been a successful four-year regional era on a high with a second - or even third - trophy following the 2022 RHF Trophy triumph.

She added: “It’s still going to be a young side, but equally they’ve got another year’s experience and they’ve had a good winter.

“We’ll set ourselves a high bar and will compete hard - we’ll be in it to win it. If we can send the current Diamonds logo out on a high, great, and we’ll then see where the future takes us.”