Thunder 97 for 3 (F Morris 42*) beat Northern Diamonds 96 (Kalis 24, Bell 3-9) by seven wickets
Thunder qualified for their first ever Charlotte Edwards Cup Finals Day this weekend thanks to a landslide seven-wicket win over local rivals Northern Diamonds, who they all but knocked out of the competition in the process at Blackpool's Stanley Park.
Scottish off-spinner Olivia Bell, 19, starred with 3 for 9 from three overs in only her third senior regional appearance as the Diamonds were bowled out for just 96, a target achieved in 15 overs to secure a five-point, bonus-point victory thanks to an unbeaten 42 not out off 34 balls from Fi Morris.
Not only have Thunder qualified for their first ever T20 regional Finals Day, at New Road on Saturday, by securing a top-three berth, it is the first time in three-and-a-half seasons of regional cricket that they have got out of the group stage of either this or the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. And they have done so by winning four of their last five matches on the back of losing their first two.
For the Diamonds, finalists in 2021 and the reigning RHFT 50-over champions, they wasted a golden chance to qualify having won their first four games. They needed just one win to guarantee qualification from their remaining three fixtures but lost all of them.
It would take a miracle defeat from Southern Vipers against Sunrisers later for the Diamonds to qualify on net run-rate. But they can realistically prepare for a free weekend.
After the Diamonds elected to bat, Thunder piled on the pressure with some excellent bowling and fielding on the way to the lowest total of this season's competition.
New-ball left-arm quicks Tara Norris and Mahika Gaur both claimed two wickets, as did the off-spin of Morris, who later picked the perfect time to post her highest score for Thunder since joining over the winter.
Naomi Dattani claimed three catches at long-on, affected a run out and opened the batting with 20.
The Diamonds got off to a disastrous start, losing Leah Dobson, captain Hollie Armitage - the leading run-scorer in the competition - and Lauren Winfield-Hill all caught within the first 15 balls.
Dobson and Armitage fell to Norris in the space of four balls at the end of the second over, caught at mid-on and backward point respectively, before Winfield-Hill drilled Gaur to long-on. And they failed to recover.
Bess Heath followed when she aimed a wild swing at Gaur at the start of the fifth over, losing off and middle stumps, and the Diamonds were 19 for 4 and Thunder were dreaming of Finals Day, where they will play in the afternoon semi-final against a yet-to-be-determined qualifier. The winner will play the Blaze in the evening final.
South African Chloe Tryon threatened a recovery by calmly moving in the twenties, but she was bowled by Morris trying to play expansively through the off-side. And returning Beth Langston, playing her first match since August following an ACL injury, followed four balls later when bowled by Bell.
Tryon and Dutch international Sterre Kalis with 24 were the only Diamonds batters to make it beyond 20, with wickets continuing to fall.
Kalis holed out to long-on off Morris before Bell had Katherine Fraser the same way - the third of Dattani's catches in that position - as the score fell to 93 for 8 in the 18th over.
Bell then had Katie Levick caught at cover for a golden duck before Grace Hall was run out to wrap up the innings with eight balls unused.
Thunder handed a debut to fledgling left-arm spinner Sophie Morris, who bowled two wicketless overs before watching her batting team-mates seal victory.
Openers Liberty Heap and Dattani both fell as the score slipped to 64 for two inside 10 overs, but they were only minor blemishes.
Heap fell to a smart Kalis catch running back towards deep gully off Fraser's off-spin before Dattani guided seamer Langston to short third.
But Morris was strong on both sides of the wicket to spark joyous scenes by the seaside despite the late departure of Deandra Dottin to Levick.