WITH the summer arriving, women’s cricket resumed in the UK with the start of the 2021 edition of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

Last year’s tournament was won by Southern Vipers, with the Headingley-based Northern Diamonds looking to avenge their final defeat by going one step further this year.

The Diamonds' opening two games were against Central Sparks and Lightning.

The former saw a gripping clash that ended in a high-scoring defeat, but the latter saw the Diamonds edge to a six-run victory.

A superb century from Amy Jones and an unbeaten 71 from Sarah Glenn helped Central Sparks pull off an incredible run chase to beat the Diamonds at Headingley in a thrilling opener to both sides' RHF Trophy campaign.

A century from Lauren Winfield-Hill had ensured the Diamonds posted a formidable total of 279 all out, which looked to be enough until first Jones and then Glenn carried the Sparks over the line with eight wickets down and 10 balls to spare.

Earlier, Winfield-Hill had reached three figures off 123 balls, but her efforts were in vain as the Sparks went on to snatch a scarcely credible victory.

The Diamonds' innings saw 19-year-old Issy Wong pick up an impressive 5-49 from her ten overs, but only Glenn could offer any meaningful support, as a scrappy performance in the field saw the Sparks drop catches and concede 22 extras, including 18 wides.

Wong and Emily Arlott had kept things tight early on, with the teenage quick picking up the early wicket of Hollie Armitage, bowled with a vicious yorker for 13, before Natalie Sciver hit one straight to Eve Jones at midwicket for seven, to leave the Diamonds 38-2.

From then on, it was all about Winfield-Hill, as she began to feast on the Sparks' supporting bowlers and together with Sterre Kalis, constructed a third wicket partnership of 112.

When Kalis was out lbw to the impressive Glenn, Katherine Brunt took over and the England legend was there to witness Winfield-Hill bring up her century with a towering six into the Western Terrace off Ria Fackrell.

Winfield-Hill eventually fell in the 42nd over to a good catch from Fackrell off Steph Butler but Brunt's 46 and useful cameos from Jenny Gunn, Alex MacDonald and Beth Langston ensured the Diamonds' total was more than adequate.

The Sparks got off to the worst possible start, losing both their opening batters without scoring as Brunt and Langston picked up a wicket each.

But Jones and Marie Kelly sparked a recovery as they compiled a partnership of 103 for the third wicket.

Kelly then holed out to Brunt off Linsey Smith for 31, with the same bowler then forcing Milly Home to edge behind for one.

A stunning one-handed catch from Gunn accounted for Butler for three but Jones stood firm and brought her own century up from 106 balls with three sixes and 11 fours.

When Jones was caught by Amy Campbell for 114, the writing seemed to be on the wall for the Sparks, but Glenn had other ideas.

She smashed a quick-fire 50 from 38 balls as an unbeaten ninth wicket partnership of 87 with Arlott saw the Sparks home.

But the Diamonds bounced back from defeat against the Sparks in their opener by beating Lightning by six runs at Kibworth in Leicestershire two days later.

Past and present England stars were the match-winners for Diamonds.

Veteran all-rounder Gunn top scored with 40 as Diamonds recovered from 50-6 to total 151, before pace bowler Brunt took 4-23 as Lightning fell just short, bowled out for 145 in the 49th over.

Kathryn Bryce took 4-16 for Lightning but Gunn’s 81-run seventh-wicket partnership with batting all-rounder MacDonald, who made 39, was ultimately the decisive passage of play, as 35-year-old former Lightning player Gunn hit six boundaries.

Put in after Lightning won the toss, the Diamonds began badly.

Kathryn Bryce’s second ball removed Winfield-Hill via a catch at cover and the medium-pacer soon had the Diamonds’ captain Armitage caught at midwicket.

New-ball partner Sophie Munro then struck another big blow when England star Sciver drove her straight to mid-off.

Brunt’s leading edge gave Kathryn Bryce an easy return catch and when Teresa Graves bowled Kalis and had Ami Campbell was caught at mid-on in the same over, the Diamonds were 50-6.

Left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon, who took four wickets against champions Southern Vipers on Saturday, went wicketless this time and it took the returning Kathryn Bryce to account for Gunn via a top-edged pull to midwicket.

With the partnership broken, the Diamonds lost their last four wickets for 20. Yvonne Graves had Langston caught at mid-off, fellow off-spinner Lucy Higham bowled MacDonald for 39 and followed up by having Katie Levick caught behind.

Lightning were rocked by a brilliant opening burst by Brunt, who knocked back opener Sarah Bryce’s off-stump for a second ball duck - the second in as many matches for Lightning’s top scorer in 2020 - and had Kathryn edging behind.

Abbey Freeborn helped England opener Tammy Beaumont add 44 for the third wicket but then Lightning lost three wickets for six runs in 11 balls to be 57-5.

Freeborn was caught behind off bat and pad, Higham chipped Levick’s leg spin straight to extra cover before Beaumont was given out leg before to Sciver.

Lightning took the result closer than expected from that point but the Diamonds attack kept chipping away. Shachi Pai was lbw to the leg spin of Levick and Brunt returned to have South African Michaela Kirk leg before.

Late runs from Gordon and both Graves sisters kept Lightning in the chase but after Yvonne Gordon holed out to mid-off off Brunt, Langston had Gordon caught behind to clinch victory.