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Will it be another Northern Diamonds-Southern Vipers finale?

A look at the 2023 Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy teams, key matches and players to watch

Northern Diamonds celebrate the moment of victory in the 2022 Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final  •  Getty Images

Northern Diamonds celebrate the moment of victory in the 2022 Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final  •  Getty Images

The 2023 edition of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy gets underway on Saturday with more players on professional contracts than ever before. Here, we take a look at some names to keep an eye on, key dates and what's been happening in the off-season.

Diary dates

April 22: Season starts with all eight teams in action. Sunrisers, winless over the three-year history of the competition, take on two-time champions Southern Vipers at the Ageas Bowl, Thunder host South East Stars, defending champions Northern Diamonds are home to Western Storm and The Blaze, the newly named Nottinghamshire side which has replaced Loughborough-based Lightning, welcome Central Sparks.
July 22: Southern Vipers vs Northern Diamonds. We'll have to wait until well into the competition before these sides meet for the first time since the 2022 final, in which Diamonds prevented a Vipers three-peat. By then we'll have a good idea of where each side stands this year. Diamonds are unlikely to lose as many players to England duty through June and July. These sides play each other again immediately after the August pause for the Hundred.
September 21: Play-off between the sides placed second and third after the group stage to determine who faces the top side in the final.
September 24: The final. Will it be another Vipers-Diamonds clash, as has been the case over the first three seasons, or will another team break into the reckoning?

Key signings

Central Sparks have secured Australian batting allrounder Erin Burns from May until the start of August, bolstering their addition of left-arm quick Katie George (Western Storm) and top-order batter Chloe Brewer (South East Stars) during the off-season.
Diamonds have lost a lot of experience with Linsey Smith going to Vipers and Nat Sciver-Brunt to The Blaze. They added batter Rebecca Duckworth to their line-up from Thunder but it is Chloe Tryon, the South African batting allrounder, who looms as the biggest fillip during a substantial stint from April-August.
South East Stars have brought in allrounder Paige Scholfield from Vipers after Eva Gray's move to Sunrisers.
Southern Vipers welcome back Smith, their Kia Super League OG, from Diamonds but have lost wicketkeeper Carla Rudd (retired), Scholfield and Tara Norris (Thunder).
Sunrisers received a much-needed boost when they managed to sign Dane van Niekerk, the hugely experienced former South Africa captain, following her international retirement. She will be with them from May until late July, when she joins Oval Invincibles for the Hundred, while Gray bolsters the bowling stocks.
The Blaze Along with Nat Sciver-Brunt, Blaze have added legspinner Sarah Glenn and South Africa allrounder Nadine de Klerk after an impressive off-season recruitment drive.
Thunder have also been active in the market, securing former Vipers left-arm quick Norris while retaining former West Indies allrounder Deandra Dottin. Naomi Dattani and Fi Morris have also joined from Sunrisers and Western Storm respectively.
Western Storm have handed Academy product Sophia Smale her first professional contract after a breakout season in the Women's Hundred, where she was Oval Invincibles' leading wicket-taker.

Players to watch

Central Sparks: Grace Scrivens, England's captain, may have taken the clutch wicket that edged her side past Australia and into the Under-19 T20 World Cup final, but that narrow victory was set up by legspinner Hannah Baker's 3 for 10 which allowed England to defend a paltry total of 99 and showed she has plenty of gumption.
Diamonds: Fast bowler Lizzie Scott was also part of the England U19 team which finished as T20 World Cup runners-up to India in January, building on her performance in last year's final where she took the important wicket of No.3 Georgia Elwiss in just her third RHFT appearance.
South East Stars: Tash Farrant's season was ruined by a back stress fracture last year, just as she had worked her way back into the England side, so it will be interesting to map her return.
Southern Vipers: Opener Ella McCaughan played a couple of excellent knocks in 2022, including a half-century against Lightning and 47 in a 98-run stand with opening partner Maia Bouchier their play-off victory against Stars.
Sunrisers: Grace Scrivens is a player the Sunrisers can build their hopes of winning some games on and the confidence she has gained from leading her country at U19 level could see her take the next step sooner rather than later.
The Blaze: Grace Ballinger, the 21-year-old left-arm seamer, was joint-leading wicket-taker for Lightning last season alongside the experienced Kirstie Gordon and has been awarded her first full professional contract this year.
Thunder: Left-arm swing bowler Tara Norris, who represents United States, won wider international recognition as the first player to take a five-wicket haul at the WPL, although Vipers fans are familiar with what she can bring to a side after she finished 2022 as the competition's third-highest wicket-taker with 12 at 19.75 and an economy rate of 4.08.
Western Storm Experience gained from the Hundred and England's runner-up finish at the Under-19 T20 World Cup stand Sophia Smale in good stead to make the next, exciting step in her career.