Bell tipped to star in front of sell out home crowds as England welcome Australia for Ashes next month
Former Berkshire and Hungerford bowler Lauren Bell is hoping she can help England regain the Ashes this summer.
For the time being, the seamer is focused on playing well for her domestic side, the Southern Vipers, but she knows a solid start to the English cricketing summer could well see her lining up against the Aussies when the series begins at Trent Bridge next month.
Two-time champions Vipers suffered a shock defeat in their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy opener as teenager Grace Scrivens inspired Sunrisers, who had never won a game in the tournament, losing 20 times in succession, to a 126-run win.
However 22-year-old Bell led the fightback for last year’s beaten finalists, claiming match-winning figures of 4-38 as Vipers bounced back with a 158-run win over South East Stars.
Bell then picked up another wicket and finished with a measly economy rate of 3.3 as Vipers made it back-to-back wins, beating Central Sparks by three wickets in scenic Wormsley.
Successive wins leaves the Vipers in a strong position to kick on and qualify for the knockout stages, but Bell, aware of the unpredictability of white-ball cricket, is taking nothing for granted.
“We know how difficult it’s going to be,” she said.
“It wasn’t how we wanted to start the season, but Sunrisers were the better team on the day.
“I think we bounced back really well and that’s what good teams do.
“It was nice to put in a performance and pick up four wickets against Stars.
“I felt in a good rhythm and close to my best, which was exciting."
Bell is now a well-established figure on the domestic circuit, starring for the Southern Brave in The Hundred, the new short format franchise that has taken English cricket by storm across the last two summers, finishing as one of the leading wicket-takers in both the previous two editions.
While continuing to develop and impress under Charlotte Edwards’ tutelage at the Vipers, Bell was rewarded with an England debut last summer and has since become a regular under new head coach Jon Lewis, playing an important role as a strike bowler as England reached the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup in February.
The retirements of several seasoned campaigners has opened the door to Bell and a number of other exciting young players and the England side that welcome Australia next month will likely feature a handful of players taking part in their first Ashes series.
Bell said: “Obviously when I’m playing for the Vipers, I’m fully focused on them.
“But Lewy (Jon Lewis) has sent us away with things to work on to prepare for the Aussies, and we play a similar brand of cricket to England.
“It’s obviously going to be a big challenge for us, they’re one of the best teams in the world, probably the best.
“It’s definitely in the back of my mind, these domestic games are perfect preparation.
“It works hand in hand, if I can play well for the Vipers then hopefully I can get in the England team and play well for them.”
Australia will touch down in England with a star-studded side and are favourites to retain the famous Ashes urn, having dominated the last four series, with England failing to win a single match the last time the two sides met.
However, despite winning the T20 World Cup, there were reasons to believe the Aussies can be beaten and Bell insists England will approach the series full of confidence.
“We know we’re going in as underdogs,” she said.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Australia and we can appreciate how tough it’ll be.
“It’s an honour to be able to play against them, to test ourselves against the best and develop ourselves as players.
“We’re desperate to try and beat them and it’s just really exciting.”
Home advantage could well count for more than ever for England.
With women’s cricket rapidly on the rise, the series will be the first Ashes to be played concurrently with the men’s series, and ticket sales have already exceeded a record 55,000 – that’s more than all the games England played in 2022 combined.
Bell said: “It’s amazing to have sold out crowds and the potential of full stadiums.
“It shows how far women’s cricket has come.
“We’ll have a lot of home fans and that can help so much.”
Sell-out crowds will mean Bell and her fellow England up-and-comers will need to handle unparalleled pressure on the big stage.
Fortunately, the growth of the women’s game means Bell is used to playing in front of vocal English support, especially in The Hundred, where she’s thrived.
On top of that, Bell appeared at home in the pressure-cooker of the World Cup in South Africa and flew from there straight to India, where she took part in the inaugural women’s IPL, experiencing some of cricket’s most intense atmospheres.
“You have to be confident,” she said.
“I’ve never been part of an Ashes series but I’ve got great people around me and I’ll go in fully prepared.
“I just have to back that the experiences I’ve had will help me through the occasion.”
Bell’s height has led her to being nicknamed the Shard and her natural pace and bounce as well as her talent for swinging the ball in English conditions could well mean she plays a pivotal role this summer.
She said: “I like to think I could be an asset.
“There’s still a lot of cricket to be played between now and then and I’ve got to be in the best form possible, I’ve got to get picked for the squad first and foremost.
“It’s always an honour to pull on an England shirt and I’d love to have the chance to do that on the biggest stage.
“We really hope we can make it a summer to remember.”
The one test match which begins the series starts at Trent Bridge on June 22 before three T20s at Edgbaston, the Oval and Lord’s and a further three ODIs in Bristol, Bell’s home ground of Southampton and Taunton.
While the Australians have already announced their touring squad, Jon Lewis is not expected to select his 15-strong contingent until the middle of the month at the earliest.