Bell fires Southern Brave to Hundred title before seamer sets off for Sydney
Former Hungerford and Berkshire bowler Lauren Bell starred as Southern Brave outclassed Northern Superchargers to win The Hundred.
The 22-year-old seamer finished with figures of 3-21, including the wicket of opener Marie Kelly in the second ball of the innings as well as the prize scalp of Superchargers’ leading run-scorer Phoebe Litchfield, as the Leeds outfit were all-out for 105 in response to Brave’s 139/6.
Bell, who missed the first two games of the franchise competition as she recovered from the Ashes, took nine wickets in seven matches as Brave won the tournament for the first time.
“It feels great, it was such a good day,” Bell said.
“We struggled a little bit at the start and then we got to a really good total.
“Then we managed to do the job with the ball, it was a great team performance.”
Bell and the Brave were beaten finalists in both of the previous two years, losing twice to the Oval Invincibles, and the England fast bowler feels her side, who retained a number of last season’s squad, learned lessons in defeat that allowed them to go one better last month.
She said: “We were conscious of it, we’d been in that position before and we knew how much it hurt.
“One of the best things we had this year is that, every game, someone different won us the match.
“That was the same in the final, quite a few different members of the team stood up for us in important moments, and I think maybe we’d lacked that in the past.
“We had a few different match winners and that made us a much better side this time.”
Veteran captain Anya Shrubsole lifted the trophy for Brave, who were unbeaten throughout the tournament, in her final game as a professional.
The veteran fast bowler, who played 179 times for England, follows a number of senior internationals in hanging up their boots, leaving the door open for Bell and a host of other exciting young players to take over the mantle.
And Bell, whose right-arm in-swing makes her a natural successor to Shrubsole, credits her captain with helping her settle into the England set-up and develop as a fast bowler.
“We were so glad we could give her the send off she deserves, it was so fitting,” she said.
“She’s had a great career, she’s been so successful and we were so happy we could give her the perfect send off.
“My relationship with her over the last three years has really evolved.
“When I was younger, she was a real mentor to me, I learned a lot from her and I would ask a lot of questions.
“As I’ve grown up and matured we’ve become really good friends.
“I’d still go to her if I ever needed advice, but she’s shown a lot of trust in me as a captain and has always been happy to throw me the ball in big moments, which means a lot.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve been able to bounce ideas off each other and she’s been hugely influential in my career.”
Well over 21,000 fans packed into Lord’s to watch the final, a record crowd for a domestic women’s game.
Women’s cricket has enjoyed a fantastic summer, with more than 110,000 supporters piling through the gates to watch the Ashes – in which Bell played every game – gripping the nation as the two best sides in the world went toe-to-toe as the series finished in a dramatic 8-8 draw.
Last week, the ECB announced that women’s international match fees would be increased to equal the men’s, another important step in the right direction for women’s cricket – and sport in general.
And Bell, who also experienced the red hot atmospheres of the Indian Premier League and led the attack as England reached the semi-final of the T20 World Cup in South Africa, is thrilled to be part of a landmark period in the women’s game.
She said: “The crowds have been unbelievable this summer.
“The Ashes were obviously unique for us but The Hundred has been on another level too.
“I think every time we’ve played at the Ageas (Bowl, Brave’s home ground) we’ve broken a record of some kind.”
Bell has been instrumental in driving engagement with the game through non-traditional means, introducing cricket to an entirely new demographic of fans.
Alongside England teammate and the world’s number one ranked bowler Sophie Ecclestone, Bell has become something of a social media star on TikTok, creating short behind the scenes videos on anything from matchday hairstyles to warming up in the nets.
Bell and her Brave teammates even made bracelets for young supporters, making their way round the Ageas Bowl to hand them out to adoring fans.
“It’s great, it’s been a unique opportunity to interact with fans, especially those who might not have watched much cricket before,” Bell said.
“One of the best things about playing cricket is being in a team and having fun, and we’ve enjoyed every second of it.
“The Hundred is a great chance to inspire young boys and girls and grow the game, so I try and throw myself into doing that.”
Bell still has plenty of cricket to look forward to and was included in the England squad for the visit of Sri Lanka, although she didn’t feature as head coach Jon Lewis had a look at some of his fringe players in a 2-1 T20 series defeat.
The fast bowler will then jet off to Australia, having been drafted by Sydney Thunder for the Women’s Big Bash League, beginning in October.
Bell, who is relishing the prospect of more cricket, admits she and her England teammates are already looking towards next year’s T20 World Cup, which takes place in Bangladesh.
She said: “The next 12 months is a prep for the World Cup, that’s our next big goal.
“There’s a lot of cricket between now and then but we’ll be working as hard as we can.”