Lauren Bell is relishing her role leading the next generation of England seamers, writes Sportsbeat's Milly McEvoy.
Despite being ruled out of the ongoing white-ball series against Sri Lanka with an illness, the 22-year-old has been filling the void left by the legendary Anya Shrubsole and been backed for success by captain Heather Knight and head coach Jon Lewis.
With Katherine Sciver-Brunt also retiring, England have looked to their future for their two white-ball series against Sri Lanka, calling up 17-year-old sensation Mahika Gaur.
Southern Brave star Bell has been propelled into a newfound level of responsibility in recent times and admits she’s loving the challenge as she continues her recovery.
She said: “Throughout the World Cup and especially the Ashes after Katherine retired, I’ve obviously taken on a bit of the role of opening the bowling and bowling some important overs at the end.
“That's where I want to be as a bowler and that's what I want to do and have that responsibility.
“I kind of thrive under it. I know that it isn't always going to go the way I want it to go. But I love having that responsibility and being backed by Heather and Jon to do that is pretty big.”
Bell, speaking at the launch of Metro Bank and the ECB’s Women’s and Girls’ Fund, is missing the final series of the summer with illness as Dani Gibson, Issy Wong and Gaur played in her place, with the latter making her debut.
The Swindon native was part of England’s run to the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup this year before taking 14 wickets across the multi-format Women’s Ashes series.
Bell was candid about the weight of expectation that has been on the women’s team in recent years, with record crowds flocking to the Women’s Ashes this summer.
At Southampton, in one of the three sold-out ODIs, Bell was taken for 26 runs off the final over of Australia’s innings with England ultimately falling three runs short in their chase.
She had to learn to bounce back quickly as she took two wickets in the final game to see England hold the double world champions to a drawn series.
— England and Wales Cricket Board (@ECB_cricket) September 6, 2023
She added: “That is one of the best things but also one of the hardest things about growing up in this environment - everything we've done is under a microscope and is on the world stage.
“But I wouldn't have it any other way.
“I had that experience in the Ashes, I obviously went for quite a few in the second to last ODI, the one we lost, and I had to bounce back.
“I had two days to bounce back, I spoke to Heather and spoke to Lewy and they still had the confidence in me to go out and do it again.
“These things happen in cricket and I think I'll learn from that experience and next time hopefully, I'll deal with it a bit better.”
Metro Bank have partnered with the ECB to increase the number of women and girls in cricket, and today announced a pledge to treble the number of girls’ cricket teams by 2026.
We’re excited to announce that along with @ECB_cricket we are pledging to treble the number of girls’ cricket teams in England and Wales. We plan to transform access to grassroots cricket recruiting 6,000 volunteers to hold 2,000 clubs and 6,000 girls' teams by 2026. pic.twitter.com/fyDxror1hK
— Metro Bank (@Metro_Bank) September 6, 2023
In order to do that, they will be using a joint fund to invest in new coaches and volunteers to help attract, retain and train more girls to play cricket.
As the Champion of Women’s and Girls’ Cricket, Metro Bank is working closely with the ECB and will use the jointly funded women’s and girls’ Fund to invest in attracting and retaining coaches and volunteers to get more girls into and staying in cricket.
And Bell paid tribute to her Southern Brave coach Charlotte Edwards, adding: “I do think it is really important to have female coaches.
“I think they obviously understand women and obviously, Lottie has been there and she's played for England, she knows what it's like come out of an Ashes series.
“She just wants to win, she's got that determination, she’s got that resilience and I would imagine that's probably where I've learned a lot of my resilience from.
“She's very much a winner and she has that mindset for anyone who comes into one of our teams.”
Metro Bank have partnered with the ECB to attract and keep more women and girls in the sport. They have pledged to treble the number of girls’ cricket teams by 2026. Understand more at www.metrobankonline.co.uk/cricket