Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy 2021: All you need to know as women’s 50-over competition returns

The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy returns on Saturday with eight sides looking to become the one that lifts the 50-over title in late September.

The tournament is part of a bumper summer of women’s cricket, which also includes a new regional T20 competition, the inaugural edition of The Hundred, and England taking on India and New Zealand across the formats.

The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy kicks things off this weekend, so read below for all you need to know!

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What’s the format?

In a tweak from 2020 – when the sides were spilt into two regional groups of four, and the top side from each group reached the final – this year will see the eight teams play each other once in a round-robin group phase. The winners will qualify automatically for the final, with the sides who finish second and third meeting in a play-off to determine their opponents.

The name has stayed the same, right?

Yes. The first edition was named after Baroness Rachael Heyhoe Flint OBE, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 77, and she will continue to be honoured. Heyhoe Flint led England to victory at the first-ever World Cup in 1973 and fought tirelessly off the field for equality, laying the foundations for the opportunities presented to modern-day players.

What are the key dates?

May 29-June 12 – Group phase part 1 (first four group games)

September 10-18 – Group phase part 2 (final three group games)

September 22 – Play-off (2nd vs 3rd for spot in final)

September 25 – Final

What are the opening fixtures?

The competition begins on Saturday with all eight sides in action. Defending champions Southern Vipers welcome Lightning to The Ageas Bowl, while last year’s beaten finalists, Northern Diamonds, host Central Sparks at Emerald Headingley. Elsewhere, Sunrisers face South East Stars at Chelmsford, and Western Storm entertain Thunder in Bristol.

What happened in last year’s final?

South Group winners Vipers beat North group winners Diamonds by 38 runs at Edgbaston, scoring 231 and then dismissing their opponents for 193 to make it seven victories from seven in a perfect season.

Vipers skipper Georgia Adams hit 80 – her fourth fifty-plus score in seven innings as she topped the run-scoring charts with 500 at an average of 83 – but a collapse saw Vipers slip from 150-1 to 191-8 before Emily Windsor pumped up the score with 37 from 48 deliveries.

Diamonds were 74-1 in reply but Vipers spinner Charlotte Taylor then dismissed Hollie Armitage before going on to shred the middle order en route to figures of 6-34, the best by any bowler in the tournament.

Sterre Kallis (55) and Beth Langston (21) put on 49 from 110-7 before both fell to Taylor, while Phoebe Graham and Katie Levick added 21 for the final wicket before Adams, fittingly, took the winning wicket.

Who else impressed in the 2020 edition?

Adams was way out in front in the run-scoring charts – she also hit the highest score of the tournament with an unbeaten 154 against Storm – but Lightning’s Scotland international Sarah Bryce notched 395 runs, helped by a century against Sparks in Leicester.

Storm’s Sophie Luff and Sparks’ Evelyn Jones also notched over 300 runs.

Bowling-wise, Vipers spinner Taylor finished one wicket clear of Lightning’s Kathryn Bryce – the older sister of Sarah Bryce.

Kathryn Bryce, Diamonds’ Katherine Brunt and Storm’s Fi Morris all bagged five-wicket hauls, while Thunder spinner Alex Hartley snared 4-8 from 10 overs against Lightning, with 54 dot balls out of 60.

Who will be looking for improvements in 2021?

Sunrisers for certain, having lost all six of their group games last summer to finish bottom of the southern pool with no points. The side were beaten home and away by Vipers, Storm and Stars in a torrid campaign.

However, in England’s Mady Villiers, they have one of the most promising spinners in the country, while the 22-year-old is also handy with the bat, as evidenced by her 64 against Vipers last term.

What about the other women’s domestic cricket?

Lots. The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy will pause from mid-June to mid-September, with the regional T20 competition and inaugural edition of The Hundred taking place in that gap.

All 34 Women’s Hundred games will be shown live on Sky Sports, including the tournament opener between Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals on July 21, with the final set for August 21.

In the regional T20 tournament, the eight sides who also play in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy will be split into two groups of four with the group winners and the best second-place side reaching Finals Day on September 5.

The best group winner advances immediately to the final with their opponent to be decided by a showdown between the other two teams.

What about international cricket?

England Women kick off their summer with a Test against India in Bristol between June 16-19. It will mark England’s first Test since the 2019 Women’s Ashes and India’s first since facing South Africa in 2014.

Heather Knight’s team will then face India in three one-day internationals and as many T20s in late June and early July, before linking up again in September for three T20s and five ODIs against New Zealand.

Then it’s off to Pakistan in October – their first-ever tour of the country – for two T20s and three ODIs.

Follow the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy across Sky Sports’ digital platforms.

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