England fast bowler Lauren Bell believes back-to-back victories in the Ashes show they are closing the gap to Australia after condemning the away side to a first defeat in a white-ball series for six years.
A five-wicket win in a rain-affected match at Lord’s in front of a record crowd backed up a three-run triumph at the Oval on Wednesday to leave the multi-format series 6-4 in Australia’s favour before the three one-day internationals.
Australia have held the Women’s Ashes since 2015, and currently hold both the T20 and 50-over World Cups. England’s two wins in the 2023 series so far is more than they have managed in their last two Ashes series combined.
After conceding just 24 runs from her four-over spell which included the key wicket of Ellyse Perry in the Lord’s win, Bell spoke about how recent results demonstrate England can compete with the double white-ball world champions.
She said: “I think coming into the Ashes, we knew that we were the underdogs and we knew how strong a team Australia were. We know that they are the best team in the world and it was always going to be a hard challenge.
“I think we’re definitely closing that gap and the last few games have really shown that.”
Victory for Australia in the Test match and the first T20I at Edgbaston saw Australia require just one win from the remaining two T20Is and three ODIs to retain the Ashes they have held since 2015.
The two wins which followed for England meant Australia were beaten in a T20I series for the first time since losing 2-1 at home to New Zealand in February 2017. Bell said the series win was special, and offers a boost in confidence to the side heading into the must-win 50-over series.
A key feature of both these victories for the home side was the support. The T20Is at The Oval and then Lord’s broke the record for the highest attendance at an England women’s bilateral fixture in successive matches, with Bell acknowledging the difference having the backing of a large crowd offers.
She said: “They’re really behind us. I think it really boosts us in the field and it boosts us when we’re batting. I would assume it puts some pressure on the Aussies and it really lifts us as a team, giving us a lot of energy.”
Having these record crowds offers this England side an opportunity to encourage a whole new audience to take up cricket, something which is not lost on them.
Bell stated: “One of our main things as a team is to entertain and inspire. And I think we’ve seen a lot of young kids around there loving cricket. It’s been great.”
It is evident that the Southern Brave seamer is enjoying herself as part of this unit. A word used often throughout her press conference was buzzing, and the smile on her face and little looks at her series winner medal support this.
Buzzing seems to be a common phrase throughout the England dressing room, with fellow stars Sophie Ecclestone and Alice Capsey also using this on social media after the Lord’s win to express their emotions.
This hints at the togetherness of the England dressing room that Bell mentioned whilst speaking to the press. Everyone is on the same page under Jon Lewis’ leadership, with this approach paying dividends on the field.
Bell used Dani Gibson’s shot of choice when she entered the fray with two runs required from the final over as an example. Gibson is new to this England environment, with the all-rounder only making her international debut at Edgbaston exactly a week ago.
The fast bowler said: “Reverse sweeping first ball shows a lot of nerve, and says a lot about this team. There’s no failure in this team. It’s accepted that we want to go out there and play our way and that’s the shot she backed herself with.”
Meanwhile Australia coach Shelley Nitschke believes her side were not at their best during the T20I series, admitting that they were feeling the absence of captain Meg Lanning.
She said: “Lanning is one of the greatest players in the world and she has been in our side for a long time, so we were definitely going to miss her.”
However, Nitschke backs Australia’s strength in depth to cover the notable absence, and regain the momentum which currently sits with England when the three-match ODI series kicks off in Bristol on Wednesday. Australia are currently on a 15-game winning streak in the format.
“They might have the momentum, but that can change pretty quickly, especially within a game.
“We’re still staying alive in the Ashes, which is what we’ve come here to win.”