Teenage pair can be our secret weapon says Kate Cross

Kate Cross backing Sophie Ecclestone and Sophie Lamb to shine

England’s comprehensive showing against Pakistan was a cause for celebration. Fresh from a humbling ICC Women’s World T20 campaign, where questions were raised about the lack of dynamism in their play, the manner with which they dispatched their summer opponents spoke volumes.

Playing without fear, records toppled as England completed a clean-sweep to seal a 6-0 win (three ODIs, three IT20s): not a bad start for head coach Mark Robinson and new captain Heather Knight.

Some players cemented their positions: Lauren Winfield and Tammy Beaumont sewed up the openers slots after ensuring the first wicket returned 801 runs across the six matches.

Amy Jones was exceptional behind the stumps. Others such as Fran Wilson and Tash Farrant impressed when given opportunities in the T20 portion of the tour.

Debuts for Alex Hartley and Sophie Ecclestone suggests the international pool is broadening.

For Kate Cross, who played the first two ODIs at Grace Road and New Road, it was a bittersweet return to international cricket.

Sophie Ecclestone celebrates a wicket

Having overcome the disappointment of missing out on the ICC Women’s World T20 squad, she excelled as a senior player on the England Women’s Academy tour of Sri Lanka.

Looking back on her two outings, in which she bowled 11 overs which returned 1 for 56, she was frustrated that she was unable to contribute more to the team’s success.

“I don’t think I bowled particularly badly in the games but I didn’t have the impact that I wanted to have,” she says. “I found that quite difficult. It’s brilliant that we were winning but equally you want to contribute towards that.”

Still, it was evident to her that England were in good shape, on and off the field.

“Robbo and Heather have created this environment where everyone is relaxed,” she says. “You want to be able to enjoy your cricket more than anything, and I think that has really shown in the way we played against Pakistan.”

For now, Cross will focus on working on aspects of her game ahead of the inaugural Kia Super League, which starts on Saturday.

While the hope is for the Kia Super League to expose county cricketers to international level competition, for players like Cross it also allows them to spend more time in high-quality, pressure situations to uphold their standards.

“The frustration we have as the women’s team is that you have an eight- to 12-week period where you are building up towards a tour and then there are only three games,” she says.

"Ecclestone and Lamb will be our secret weapons"

Kate Cross

“That’s where the Kia Super League is going to be different. Instead of us going away and playing county cricket, we’re going to have this period where we are working intensely with our various teams and then, before you know it, a tour to West Indies and Sri Lanka. It’s going to be a busy few months but I’ve always said we just want to be playing more cricket and we want more opportunities.”

Playing with Lancashire Thunder, her home side, gives Cross the opportunity to play an integral part of an exciting team combining international class and local youth.

ICC Women’s World T20 champions Deandra Dottin and Hayley Matthews of West Indies are joined by New Zealand’s Amy Satterthwaite, with precocious youngsters such as Ecclestone (17) and England Women’s Academy batsman Emma Lamb (18) contributing to an exciting blend. It’s the teenage duo whom Cross believes can make the difference in this six-team competition.

“You can do your homework on the international stars, so it’s almost the homegrown players that do the most damage because they sneak under the radar,” she says. “Ecclestone and Lamb will be our secret weapons.”

With players coming together from far and wide to make up the Thunder squad, Cross has taken it upon herself to teach her new team-mates about the significance of the Red Rose.

As such, Friday 12 August is a date at the forefront of their minds: not only is it Lancashire’s sole match at Emirates Old Trafford, it also happens to be against the Yorkshire Diamonds.

“I’ve been trying to install that rivalry in everyone,” she says.“It’s such a big game and it’ll be extra special that it’s at Old Trafford and under lights. We’ll really push to try and get everyone in for that one and make it a great showcase for the tournament.”