By Aadam Patel, ECB Reporters Network
Lauren Bell picks up her phone in a cafe in Loughborough where she is preparing for her final Sociology exam next week. But before she can head into the exam room for one last time at university, there’s another final to deal with for the 21-year-old.
On Saturday, Bell and her Southern Vipers side will face either South East Stars or Central Sparks for the Charlotte Edwards Cup in Northampton.
“It all works itself out, doesn’t it?” laughs Bell.
"It (University) gives me something different to think about and it’s actually a nice distraction. The toughest was when I was in Australia and New Zealand because my dissertation was due in but the uni was pretty supportive and gave me an extension."
The summer ahead is certainly an exciting one for the pace bowler, with the chance to challenge domestically, the prospect of The Hundred, having picked up 12 wickets in the competition last year, and the possibility of an international debut.
In January, Bell was selected in the England squad for the Ashes Test in Australia and was the joint-leading wicket taker for England A while down under. She was subsequently named as one of the travelling reserves for England’s defence of the World Cup in New Zealand, which fell short at the final hurdle.
Though Bell didn’t make her international debut, she is sure that it was an eye-opening experience which left her craving for more.
“I was meant to be away for four weeks and it ended up being three and a half months and I packed for Australia, which is far warmer than New Zealand,” Bell said.
“It was amazing to be around the World Cup and experience what that was all about and hopefully I can be involved in playing in one someday. But even just travelling around and seeing all the places was so exciting for me.”
The Vipers go into Saturday’s final as strong favourites and the only team in the competition with a 100% record, and Bell is optimistic that they can avenge last year's Finals Day defeat, where they lost out in the semi-final to Northern Diamonds.
“We’re confident after six wins from six but we’re trying not to be complacent,” she said.
“Even when we played the Diamonds last weekend, we just wanted to keep that momentum and I feel like everyone wants to beat us, so we just need to play our best cricket and stick to our strengths.”
And those strengths are only improving under the guidance of Anya Shrubsole, who retired from international cricket after the World Cup and took up a role as player-coach of the Vipers.
After playing under the captaincy of the former England bowler at The Hundred, Bell is flourishing under Shrubsole. Earlier this season, she got her career-best T20 bowling figures, taking three for 12 against Lightning.
“She (Shrubsole) is amazing - she really reinforces being confident in our own ability,” Bell said.
“Anya loves coaching and she’s so passionate. It’s been great to have her on board, especially because she’s been there and done everything that I want to do.
“I feel like because she’s experienced a lot of what I’m experiencing, like whenever I’m low on confidence or something isn’t working, she’s often got the answers or got a solution and can say ‘yeah I’ve been there.’ She makes you feel like it's not only you, which is really nice.”
After falling short in the Charlotte Edwards Cup and in the final of The Hundred last summer and then seeing England lose to Australia in the World Cup final, Bell is keen to go “that one step further and win”.
“I just want to contribute as much as I can and feel like I’ve helped my team as much as I can to get over the line, especially in those moments where we fell short last year,” she said.
Which leads to the question of whose wicket she would love to take in the final on Saturday?
"If we play the Sparks, Amy Jones and if we play the Stars, Sophia Dunkley so if I can get either of them out, I’ll definitely feel like I’ve contributed.”