LAUREN Winfield-Hill is hoping to see both the Northern Diamonds and the women’s domestic game in England as a whole continue this summer’s upwards trajectory.

Winfield-Hill returned from England duty to captain the Diamonds in Sunday’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final at Edgbaston, which they lost by 38 runs to Southern Vipers when chasing a 232 target.

The Diamonds were bowled out for 193 in a game which saw them have chances to claim victory.

Disappointed? No doubt. But encouraged by what she has seen from her side in this summer’s six-team regional competition, which has brought five wins from seven games? Definitely.

“It’s been a good season for us,” said the opening bat.

“We’ve recruited well with Jenny Gunn and Sterre Kalis, and then someone like a Phoebe Graham is back up north having played her county cricket down south.

“It’s good to get a good group of players together, and hopefully we stick together. That’s the main thing.

“I’m not sure whether Jenny (Gunn) wants to keep playing. We’ll see.

“A lot of the girls have jobs so have gravitated back to the North because of Covid, living in, and working from, their family homes rather than paying rent in London, for example.

“Hopefully we can keep this squad together and keep building.”

Asked about the Diamonds falling at the final hurdle on Sunday, Winfield-Hill said: “We’ll learn from that. We just need to be playing in (more of) these finals and we'll find a way to win.

“Look at the Vipers, they’ve been in these big occasions a lot as a club with the Kia Super League and stuff - more than our girls have. There’s certainly lots of learning.

“We need to be up and among the best, challenging ourselves under pressure.

“The more times you do that, the more you’ll find a way to win in these big games.”

Winfield-Hill was released from England’s T20 bubble at Derby on Saturday evening, where she had been a non-playing squad member for the first three matches against the West Indies.

“It was just a case of England saying, ‘We can’t not give you the opportunity to play in a final if you are not in our eleven’,” she explained.

“It’s different this year and a bit more challenging with Covid, whereas hopefully next year getting released back to your domestic side will become the norm.”

Sunday’s final saw the Vipers, invited to bat first, slip from 150-1 to 231 all out before the Diamonds slipped from 74-1 to 193 all out.

“At one stage we thought it was a 260 pitch, but in the end they probably got 20 or 30 too many with people down the order chipping in. That proved to be the difference,” said Winfield-Hill.

“We didn’t bat very well. There were a lot of soft dismissals. A lot of people got themselves out rather than being got out.

“We showed a lot of fighting character.

“Katie Levick typified it at the end. She’s put a lot of work into her batting and said, ‘We only needed five an over - you never know’.

“I just felt we were always two or three wickets down from where we needed to be to really give it a good go at the back end.”

This summer’s competition was a last-minute arrangement as a result of Covid and was the first played by the six new Regional Centres of Excellence.

The Northern Diamonds, representing Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland, have three full-time contracted players in Hollie Armitage, Beth Langston and Linsey Smith, all of whom played in the final.

They are added to the England centrally contracted players such as Winfield-Hill, Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver, plus a host of promising up and comers.

Next month, the plan is for two more full-time Diamonds contracts to be awarded, which Winfield-Hill hopes will double sooner rather than later in order to propel the domestic game in this country forwards.

“I think we want to get to a stage where we have 10 professionals,” she added. “Then, from November each winter, the girls are training as dedicated full-time pros.

“That is a big thing, which was shown for us with England.

“There was significant progression once you didn’t have to balance any other part of your life with training and playing commitments.”