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14th September 2023 Women

Northern Diamonds face Sunrisers in a must-win clash for playoff qualification at Seat Unique Riverside

There is significant complexity to Saturday’s final day race for knockout qualification in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. But the simplicity comes in the fact the Northern Diamonds have to beat Sunrisers at The Seat Unique Riverside in Durham to have any chance of progression. Nothing else will do.

Now for the head-scratching part because a win for the Diamonds in the final group game (10.30am) will not definitely secure a top-three finish and keep their title defence alive.

Are you sitting comfortably?

The Diamonds are relying on a favour or two from elsewhere.

Six of the eight teams still have something to play for on Saturday, and only league leaders the Blaze have qualified for the knockouts. But they have yet to seal their direct qualification for the September 24 final at Northampton.

Only Thunder and Western Storm, who play each other, can’t qualify.

After 13 games, with a maximum of five points still to play for, the top six in the table currently reads: Blaze 38 points, Southern Vipers 33, South East Stars 31, Central Sparks 31, Diamonds 30 and Sunrisers 28.

A quirk of the final day schedule actually sees first versus second, third versus fourth, fifth play sixth and seventh play eighth.

That’s Blaze against Vipers, Stars against Central Sparks, Diamonds versus Sunrisers and Thunder versus Western Storm.

The Diamonds will definitely advance if they win and Blaze beat Vipers.

If the Vipers beat Blaze, one of two things needs to happen for the winning Diamonds.

The Stars and Sparks must either tie or be forced into a No Result or the Diamonds win with five points (bonus point win) and either the Stars or Sparks win with four. Then it would come down to net run-rate.

It’s highly likely that the limit of the Diamonds expectation is a third-placed finish and an away Eliminator tie, although mathematically they can still finish second. That would involve a Stars and Sparks tie or No Result.

Is that all clear?

For the Diamonds, all they can do is concentrate on themselves. Whatever else happens, happens. It’s a cliche, but it’s true.

They have impressively taken care of business in the last two games to keep themselves alive, beating Western Storm at Taunton on Sunday and Thunder at Sale last time out on Wednesday.

It’s hoped that Bess Heath will be available to play following England white ball duty over the last few weeks.

“Ever since we came back from the Hundred, we’ve been seeing every game as a semi final that we have to win,” said in-form leg-spinner Katie Levick, who has claimed six wickets across those two victories.

“Most of all, we want the wins and we’ll see what happens after that.

“If those results don’t go our way, we know we’ve done the best we can by just going out there to win.

“All the games since the Hundred have been confidence boosters. We narrowly lost to the Vipers (at South Northumberland) when they chased down 260. Even though it was a loss, there were a lot of good performances.

“To get these two recent wins after being in tough situations means we’re confident.

“We’re the home team on Saturday, so we’ve just got to do what we can.

“I do feel a bit like, ‘Why not us?’

“We’re the team that’s got into the Eliminator or the Final every year, so we know how to win in tough situations. We’re just hoping it’s one more for us.”

Sheffield star Levick is having another outstanding season.

The 32-year-old is the leading wicket-taker in all regional cricket this season, striking 36 times.

That haul has including 24 wickets in the RHF Trophy, the second most across the competition behind Central Sparks off-spinner Georgia Davis with 25.

As for the Sunrisers, they can just about still qualify. Their first port of call is to win big with a bonus point before hoping for other results to go their way and allow them to sneak into third place by virtue of net run-rate.

The Diamonds beat the Sunrisers by five wickets at Chelmsford at the start of May. Levick struck three times to help bowl the hosts out for 157 before opener Lauren Winfield-Hill’s 51 set up a routine chase achieved with more than 20 overs remaining.

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