Sunrisers 126 for 4 (Gardner 30*, Miller 20*, Hall 2-36) beat Northern Diamonds 114 for 6 (Heath 37, Gray 2-24) by six wickets (DLS method)
The Northern Diamonds’ title defence in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy is over – their fate sealed during a thrilling final-day group defeat against Sunrisers at Durham.
The Diamonds needed to beat the Sunrisers – also eliminated today – at the Seat Unique Riverside to have any chance of progression for the knockout stages next week.
But other results also needed to go their way, which they didn’t and were confirmed as the Diamonds were about to start their defence of a revised target of 126 in 18 overs, which came down to the visitors needing 10 off the last over.
Sunrisers, who needed a bonus victory amidst a host of other things to go their way to finish in the top three places, then hunted down their Duckworth Lewis Stern target for the loss of four wickets with three balls to spare.
After visiting captain Grace Scrivens elected to bowl, Gray bowled key duo Lauren Winfield-Hill and Hollie Armitage with two beautiful nip-backers, leaving Diamonds at 26 for 2 in the fifth over.
The one which bowled Winfield-Hill for 1 uprooted leg-stump and the one which removed captain Armitage for 13 flattened off.
The Diamonds, led by Netherlands international opener Sterre Kalis, did pretty well to steady the ship in tricky conditions – a grey sky, floodlights on and definite nip off the pitch. They reached 47 for 2 after 10 overs, with Kalis pulling a couple of crisp boundaries in 28.
Unfortunately for her, she fell in the 11th when Kelly Castle took a stunning one-handed catch peddling back from mid-off to help leg-spinner Jodi Grewcock strike – 51 for 3.
Heath then came in and showed significant intent and went on to hit three fours and a six – the latter over midwicket.
She hammered Grewcock down the ground for her first boundary, and it seemed as if she was trying to up the rate for the Diamonds with the rain having returned.
Umpires Hasan Adnan and Gabi Brown called for the covers to return just after 3pm, with the Diamonds 68 for 3 after 13 overs.
Play resumed at 4.20pm, with the Diamonds batting for five more overs. Heath hit her for six but was one of three batters who holed out as Castle, Mady Villiers and Scrivens all struck.
On-loan seamer Sophia Turner then bowled an attacking Scrivens for 11, leaving Sunrisers at 20 for 1 in the fourth over of their chase.
Sunrisers steadied and kept in touch, as opener Ariana Dowse – a centurion earlier this week in victory over Blaze – made her way to 27.
But she fell as one of two wickets in three balls to seamers Grace Hall and Phoebe Turner as the score fell to 60 for 3 in the 11th over.
Dowse miscued Hall into the covers and Villiers found deep square-leg off Turner. It felt a big moment, but not so. Hall struck again when she bowled Amara Carr for 29, leaving the score at 77 for 4 in the 13th over.
Sunrisers kept in touch thanks to some clean hitting, chiefly from Gardner, who hoisted Hall for six over long-on in the penultimate over. The game was then sealed by a Lizzie Scott wide.
The Diamonds failing to qualify for the knockout stages means next Sunday’s final at Northampton will be the first time in four years that this competition’s showpiece will be contested by somebody else but the Diamonds and the Southern Vipers. The latter have qualified, though.
The Diamonds suffered their seventh defeat, while the Sunrisers won for the sixth time in this competition. They hadn’t won a 50-over in three seasons prior to 2023, so progression for them is obvious.