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Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy returns as teams aim to chase down The Blaze

Northern Diamonds Head Coach Dani Hazell on the return of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and the role of The Hundred in the women's domestic game.

The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy returns early next week with England’s domestic stars ready to return to 50-over action.

The competition, which was expanded this year to see regional teams playing more fixtures, resumes having last been played in July.

The Blaze top the table, with a number of teams beneath them vying to be a part of the final – held at County Ground, Northampton on September 24.

Northern Diamonds are the holders of the trophy, having defeated Southern Vipers at Lord’s last summer, and Head Coach Dani Hazell is excited to resume her team’s domestic campaign.

“It’s good to have the girls back around. I’m looking forward to giving it that last bit of push. We’re in the mixer. I think we’re fourth in the table at the minute, so there’s an opportunity for us to make something happen and get ourselves in the Eliminator.

“We’ll be doing everything we can to put that in place and equally we’ll probably be trying to give opportunity to people. There are a few injuries around us, we have obviously had a player called up for England - which is fantastic for Bess - so equally that’s going to open up opportunity for other players.”

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Hazell herself has been busy in The Hundred. She guided Northern Superchargers to the final, where they fell short against Southern Brave.

Off the back of a tournament that saw the likes of Georgia Adams, Linsey Smith, Tammy Beaumont, Freya Davies, Kirstie Gordon and Fi Morris star ahead of their return to RHF Trophy cricket, Hazell is confident that the competition will have given a boost to the players who took part in it.

“You’re hoping that players come back from The Hundred with confidence. It’s obviously a brilliant competition to be a part of and we’ve seen a number of players put their hands up and show what they can do.

“The opportunity to work with different coaches is really important, I think. Sometimes you don’t want to get into the stalemate of having the same coaches over and over. Even the girls that have been with the Superchargers and the Diamonds, they get to experience different staff coming in as well, and that just refreshes things.”

The former England off-spinner thinks The Hundred also offers a benefit to coaches. “It’s beneficial for the coaches well. For myself it’s a chance to work with different people and pinch different ideas so I think it has a positive impact.

“I think whether you’ve had a quiet time in The Hundred and you come back excited to be back with the girls, or whether you’ve had a really good competition in The Hundred and you take momentum from that, it’s only going be a positive.”

Hazell is hopeful that her team can mount a push across September, but it’s The Blaze who currently sit in pole position.

“The Blaze have had a really good year this year, obviously Paul Guest has been with us at the Superchargers in The Hundred and he’s done a really good job with The Blaze, moving across from Loughborough to Trent Bridge, which I’m sure means they’re now being support well by Nottinghamshire. And they are having a really good year. You would think that they’re probably going straight through to the Final and that second and third is a bit of a fight between the rest of us.”

Diamonds will be without wicket-keeper Bess Heath for at least a portion of the month, the 22-year-old right-hander having earned her first England call-up, and for Hazell it’s a well-earned selection that points to things moving in the right direction.

“For me, that’s my primary job. My job is to produce cricketers to go on and play for England so for Bess to be in the squad and to have that opportunity is massive for us and it’s something that we really want to celebrate. Obviously, we will continue to do that over the next few years but hopefully Bess gets a go across the IT20 or ODI series and if she does, I know she’ll give it absolutely everything in the way that Bess does. I’ll really be rooting for her if she gets that opportunity over the next couple of weeks.”

Fixtures for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy are available below, with information regarding tickets for the first round of fixtures on Tuesday 5 September. Tickets for the final at County Ground, Northampton, are available here.

Tuesday 5 September

Central Sparks vs The Blaze (Edgbaston) – TICKETS

Northern Diamonds vs Southern Vipers (Gosforth) - BUY ON THE GATE

South East Stars vs Thunder (Guildford) – FREE ENTRY

Sunrisers vs Western Storm (Radlett) – BUY ON THE GATE

Saturday 9 September

Southern Vipers vs Thunder (Arundel)

Sunday 10 September

South East Stars vs The Blaze (County Ground, Beckenham)

Sunrisers vs Central Sparks (Cloud County Ground, Chelmsford)

Western Storm vs Northern Diamonds (Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton)

Wednesday 13 September

Southern Vipers vs South East Stars (The Ageas Bowl)

The Blaze vs Sunrisers (Loughborough)

Thunder vs Northern Diamonds (Sale CC)

Western Storm vs Central Sparks (Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton)

Saturday 16 September

Central Sparks vs South East Stars (Edgbaston)

Northern Diamonds vs Sunrisers (Seat Unique Riverside)

The Blaze vs Southern Vipers (Loughborough)

Thunder vs Western Storm (Emirates Old Trafford)

Thursday 21 September

Playoff - 2nd vs 3rd (Venue TBC)

Sunday 24 September

Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy Final (County Ground, Northampton)