Northern Diamonds targetting early wins to boost chances of success in Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy
The Diamonds have already won two from two in the regional 50-over competition and face the Sparks at Worcestershire (10.30am) and then Lightning next Saturday at Durham.
After Durham, the competition breaks for the Hundred, after which there are three remaining fixtures in the race for the September 25 final at Lord’s.
The Diamonds currently sit second in the eight-team table, a point behind Southern Vipers on nine, and their case for a third straight RHFT final appearance will be strengthened with wins across the next two Saturdays.
“We identified these four games as being massive,” said head coach Hazell. “Can we really nail this period of the season going into the Hundred?
“There may be a few more tired bodies coming back after that Hundred, so it might be about looking after a few people during the second half of the competition. These four games were huge. They can make or break your season.”
The Diamonds are in good order having beaten Thunder at Sale and Sunrisers at Headingley so far.
Sparks, beaten finalists in the early summer Charlotte Edwards (T20) Cup, have lost one and won one so far in the competition.
The Diamonds have had to battle through a fair amount of disruption through injury and unavailability this season, but they remain in with an excellent chance of silverware.
Lauren Winfield-Hill missed all but two games in the Charlotte Edwards with a quad injury, for example, while fellow England internationals Jenny Gunn and Beth Langston have only played three regional games between them this summer.
Gunn, having recovered from a knee injury, missed last week’s Sunrisers game with a calf issue and is unavailable, while Langston has been out with a foot issue. She, however, is set to play as a batter at New Road.
“It’s been frustrating,” said Hazell. “You’d love to have 15 to choose from every time, but it’s rarely possible.”
“But we have trust in every single player in our squad that they’re good enough to be out there and can go and win us a game.
“When you set your bar so high, there’s always going to be a point when you don’t quite meet it. We’d have loved to qualify for the finals of the Charlotte Edwards. And, my god, we tried everything we could. But it didn’t happen.
“There were still positive things we took from that, things we learnt as well, and our focus is on this now. It’s been a good start, but there’s a long way to go.”