Road to Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final: Southern Vipers vs Northern Diamonds

Shajin Mohanan S
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Road to Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final: Southern Vipers vs Northern Diamonds

Georgia Adams (l), Hollie Armitage and Jenny Gunn (R). © Getty Images/ Women's CricZone

Vipers have been the best side in the group stages of the tournament, remaining unbeaten and topping the South group with six wins to their credit. They bossed the competition - winning three matches with bonus points - as they downed Western Storm, South East Stars, and Sunrisers twice and finished with 27 points from the six matches.

Skipper Georgia Adams has been leading from the front scoring 420 runs from six matches at an average of 84 and a strike rate of 82.35 and she will no doubt finish as the tournament's leading run-getter. Tara Norris led the bowling efforts for the South-Central based side with 12 wickets to her name from the six matches at an average of 16.08. Only Lightning captain Kathryn Bryce (14) has more wickets in her tally.

Diamonds topped the North group - consisting of Central Sparks, Thunder, and Lightning - with 23 points to their name after winning five out of their six matches, but their journey to the final wasn’t as easy as the group table makes it seem. Diamonds had to wait till the sixth and final round of the competition to join the Vipers in the finals. Their only defeat came in the fifth round of the tournament against Central Sparks and that gave the Sparks a small ray of hope going into the final round.

North-East based Diamonds relied on the collective effort of the batting department and don’t have a single batter in the top 10 run-scorers in the competition so far with skipper Hollie Armitage’s tally of 150 from six matches being the most. Beth Langston has been the most impressive with the ball taking 11 wickets from the six matches at an average of 18 and an economy rate of 4.28.

Women’s CricZone takes a look at the road both teams travelled to reach the finals as they prepare for the summit clash.

Southern Vipers

Georgia Adams Georgia Adams has been prolific at the top-of the order. © Southern Vipers/ Twitter

Round 1: Beat Sunrisers by seven wickets

England opener Danielle Wyatt, who was available for the first two matches of the competition, starred with the bat scoring a 73-ball 66 to help the Vipers register their first win of the tournament when they smashed the Sunrisers by seven wickets at Chelmsford.

Wyatt shared a 111-run stand for the opening wicket with Adams (37) after Paige Scholfield’s 3 for 33 led the bowling effort to restrict the Sunrisers to 202 after having put them in to bat. Vipers chased down the target in 36.2 overs to give themselves a bonus-point win.

Round 2: Beat Western Storm by 22 runs

Vipers managed to put one past a strong Western Storm in their second match when they defeated them by 22 runs at the Bristol Country ground. Charlotte Dean top-scored with an unbeaten 60 after the opening duo of Wyatt and Adams once again put on a century partnership to take the Vipers to a formidable total of 261.

Left-arm pacer Norris’ match haul of 4 for 45 was instrumental in their bowling effort after Storm appeared to be on their way to victory when Sophie Luff and Heather Knight put on a 130-run partnership for the second wicket. The Vipers’ bowlers staged a comeback to eventually bowl Storm out for 239 in 47.5 overs to give themselves their second victory. Adams picked three wickets for 23 runs.

Round 3: Beat South East Stars by 111 runs

Vipers' bowling attack bundled the South East Stars out for a mere 98 runs in 36.5 overs to help them make it three-from-three with a 111-run win at Hove. Norris once again starred with the ball taking 3 for 27.

Earlier, teenager Ella McCaughan (50) put on the team's third consecutive fifty-plus opening stand with Adams to help them post a moderate 209 for 8 on a difficult surface. After that, their bowlers never let the Stars into the game to make sure their rein at the top of the table continued.

Round 4: Beat Sunrisers by 49 runs

Skipper Adams continued her good run of form to take the Vipers to their fourth consecutive win of the tournament with a 49-run win against Sunrisers in Southampton. Batting first, Adams played an enterprising knock of 89 with Dean (39) giving her support to take the Vipers to a score of 232.

Sunrisers were bowled out for 183 for 43.5 overs with Norris once again headlining the bowling effort with 3 for 37.

Round 5: Beat Western Storm by 32 runs

A magnificent century from Adams helped the Vipers defeat Storm by 32 runs in Southampton to become the first side to qualify for the final of the tournament. She remained unbeaten on 154, headlining Vipers' mammoth total of 288 for 1.

In reply, Storm looked to be in the game for some part of the chase with skipper Luff (79) continuing on her excellent form before they fell away in front of the target of 289 runs and was eventually bowled out for 256 runs in the final ball of the match. Charlotte Taylor took 4 for 41 runs for the Vipers and Dean chipped in with three wickets.

Round 6: Beat South East Stars by four wickets

Vipers found new heroes in Emily Windsor (47*) and Carla Rudd (35) with their 72-run partnership helping them maintain their unbeaten record as they defeated the Stars in their final group game by four wickets at The Oval.

Young pacer Lauren Bell took 4 for 36 for the Vipers side to bowl out the Stars for 227 in 48.3 overs before they chased down the target in the 48th over with Windsor guiding them home.


Northern Diamonds

© Getty Images Beth Langston's bowling has been a standout for Northern Diamonds. © Getty Images

Round 1: Beat Central Sparks by nine wickets

Diamonds made full use of the availability of England stars on the opening day of the tournament when a Katherine Brunt's five-wicket haul and a Lauren Winfield fifty helped them thump the Sparks by nine wickets in Birmingham.

Sparks, who opted to bat first, were bundled out for 144 with Brunt taking 5 for 20 and Winfield, who led the side in the first two matches, put on 139 runs for the opening partnership with Armitage (54*) to take the Diamonds past the target with plenty of overs to spare.

Round 2: Beat Lightning by nine runs

Diamonds overcame the threat of the Bryce sisters with the help of England allrounder Natalie Sciver to win a close encounter by nine runs against the Lightning side at Chester-Le-Street to go to the top of the group in their group.

Sciver played a match-winning knock of 104 to help the Diamonds post a moderate total of 226 for 9 in 50 overs. She then took two wickets with the ball as the collective bowling effort restricted Lightning only to 217 for 7.

Round 3: Beat Lightning by two wickets

For the second game in succession, Diamonds managed to stay on the right side of a thriller when they defeated Lightning  by two wickets in the reverse fixture at the Fischer County Ground in Leicester. Former England international Jenny Gunn (50*) guided them home when all looked lost with the Diamonds reduced to 119 for 7 chasing 227 for a win.

Lighting were bowled out 226 in the final over of the first innings with four Diamonds’ bowlers, including Gunn, taking two wickets each. Gunn and Langston shared an 81-run partnership for the eighth wicket during the chase to help diamond making it three-in-three.

Round 4: Beat Thunder by 73 runs

Diamonds thumped Thunder by 73 runs in their fourth match of the tournament in Liverpool to make it four wins from as many matches. Alex MacDonald headlined the batting while Katie Levick starred with the ball, clinching a three-wicket haul.

Diamonds, after being inserted by the hosts, scored 248 for 8 from their allotted fifty overs with MacDonald scoring a 110-ball 92. In reply, Thunder never threatened their score and eventually managed a total of only 175 for 8.

Round 5: Lost to Central Sparks by six wickets

Diamonds suffered their first defeat of the tournament when they went down to the Sparks by six wickets in the match in Leeds during the fifth round. Evelyn Jones headlined the Sparks effort with her 77-run knock in chasing the moderate target of 218 from 46.4 overs.

Netherlands international Sterre Kalis played a patient knock of 87 to take the Diamonds to 217 all out from their fifty overs. The defeat meant both sides had a chance to qualify for the final going into the final round of the competition.

Round 6: Beat Thunder by six wickets

Diamonds booked their place in the final when they comprehensively defeated the Thunder side at Headingley. Kalis scored her second consecutive fifty of the competition to chase down the 144-run target with more than 20 overs to spare.

Earlier, Beth Langston led the Diamonds’ bowling effort with a three-wicket haul helped them skittle the visitors for only 143 in 42.5 overs. Levick, Gunn, and Phoebe Graham took two wickets each.