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31st May 2022 Women

Northern Diamonds ready to face Loughborough Lightning at Seat Unique Riverside

Northern Diamonds spinner Leigh Kasperek is hoping her significant contribution to Sunday’s ‘Roses’ win over Thunder in the Charlotte Edwards Cup can be the platform for a memorable summer.

The New Zealand overseas star claimed an excellent 2-16 from four overs of off-spin as the Diamonds defended a 125 target to win by 25 runs and keep their bid for Finals Day on June 11 firmly alive.

It was the 30-year-old’s standout performance in four games so far for the Diamonds, who are back in action again on Wednesday afternoon (2.15pm) when they host Loughborough-based Lightning at the Seat Unique Riverside in Durham.

It is part of a T20 double header with Durham’s men, who face Worcestershire Rapids in the Vitality Blast at 6.30pm.

Kasperek is enjoying life with the Diamonds, a group of players she knows well having previously represented Yorkshire women and the Yorkshire Diamonds.

“I love it here, I really do,” she said. “I know it’s a new team, but I’ve played with most of these girls before. It’s just nice to come in, feel relaxed and enjoy my cricket.”

That enjoyment will no doubt increase if the Diamonds can win their remaining two group games and qualify for Finals Day at Northampton a week on Saturday.

The top team in each of the two groups qualifies plus the best second-placed finisher.

With all teams having two games still to play, the current standings are as follows. In Group B, the Southern Vipers lead the way with 18 points, while the Diamonds are second on 10 points. In Group A, Central Sparks are top with 13 points and the South East Stars second with 12.

The Diamonds face the Vipers at the Ageas Bowl in Saturday’s final group game.

“We know we have to win these next two games,” continued Edinburgh-born Kasperek.

“The attitude of coming out having to give everything can simplify things. You know you have to go out there and express yourself. We all back each other 100 percent to do the job.”

Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver, married at the weekend, remain unavailable, as does injured Lauren Winfield-Hill (quad). Rachel Slater and Jenny Gunn, who have both been suffering with knee problems, could return for Saturday’s trip to Southampton.

Lightning, who should include England opening batter Tammy Beaumont, are bottom of Group B with three defeats and a victory from their four games. One of those defeats was against the Diamonds at Loughborough in the opening round of games on May 14.

Kiwi Kasperek has signed for the Diamonds at not the easiest time in her impressive career.

She was left out of the New Zealand squad for the one-day World Cup on home soil through March and April and, only last week, was not offered a central contract by her national board.

However, she is determined to focus purely on Diamonds commitments, for whom she has so far taken three wickets.

“I’m just trying to do my best for this team,” she said. “I can’t control what happens on the outside. I just have to put all of my focus into doing well for the Diamonds each game we play. Hopefully then, good things will happen.

“The first couple of games didn’t go as well as I would have hoped. You come into a new group and always want to do well straightaway.

“But I’ve just come off a little bit of a break. It’s taken me a little bit of time to find my feet, but hopefully Sunday was the start of good things moving forwards.”

Kasperek was signed to add variety to a spin attack already including leg-spinner Katie Levick and left-armer Linsey Smith, and she has since been joined in the team by Diamonds Academy off-spinner Emma Marlow, who has settled quickly into senior cricket with five wickets in four games.

“Emma’s really calm, which is amazing considering the amount of red bull she drinks!” laughed Kasperek.

“Seriously, she’s been fantastic. She has a really good head on her shoulders and has been fantastic in the powerplay for us. The future looks bright for her.

“Even Emma and myself bowling off-spin, we do it very differently. The same with Lev and Hollie (Armitage) with their leg-spinners. The key is variety so that batters don’t know what’s coming, and we certainly have plenty of it.”


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