Lauren Bell on song again to signal increased pace depth for England

Lauren Bell in her delivery stride Getty Images

The Katherine Brunt-Anya Shrubsole axis has led England's pace attack for more than a decade but succession planning is now underway. Several seamers have pitched their respective cases of late without nailing down a first-team place in either the ODI or T20I set-ups, and the introduction of 41 domestic contracts last year means that the talent pool is now broader than ever.

With new-ball opportunities generally limited by the presence of senior bowlers in the side, one of the keys for any young seamers breaking through is an ability to take wickets in the middle of an innings. As a result, Lauren Bell's performances in Southern Brave's first two games of the Hundred will be keenly noted.

Bell, a 20-year-old seamer who has been a part of England academy sides and was involved in the bubbles at Derby last summer, has all the attributes of a future international player. "Tall, lanky, high point of release: she has everything going for her as a fast bowler," Dinesh Karthik said on Sky Sports during her first spell in the comfortable win against Welsh Fire in Cardiff, "and a perfect seam position, too."

And while Bell's height is yet to translate into genuine pace - her speeds in the Hundred so far have generally been in the 65-68mph (105-110kph) region - her ability to find hooping inswing even when the ball is slightly older is particularly promising. "I think my action allows me to," she explained afterwards. "I don't hold the ball any differently, I just have a natural action that helps me swing it in. 100 balls is a short period of time, so most of the time it will continue to swing throughout."

Bell conceded eight runs from her first ten balls, all within a subdued Powerplay, but by the time she returned for her third set of five, Hayley Matthews had injected some life into the innings, hitting up and over extra cover off both the front and back foot on her way to 32 off 18 balls. Bell struck with the third ball of her comeback spell, pitching an inswinger up to entice Matthews into a booming drive which she outside-edged to short third.

That brought in Sarah Taylor, England's second-highest T20I run-scorer, but Bell was unfazed. "I was just thinking 'bowl your best ball'," she said, "and I had real clarity from my captain." Taylor was drawn forward again, shaping to work into the leg side but beaten on the inside edge by the swing. She reviewed the on-field lbw decision, but it was upheld via the DRS.

The hat-trick ball was a wide down the leg side, looking to repeat the trick, but two middle-phase wickets had pegged the Fire back significantly. All told, she finished with 2 for 19 from her 20 balls, with half of them dots, conceding a solitary boundary when Katie George stroked her through the covers in her final set at the death.

"She's a quality bowler and a real weapon for us, not just with the new ball, but as she showed coming back, getting that wicket of Hayley was huge and then Sarah Taylor first ball was a real turning point for us," Shrubsole said.

"She's obviously got great attributes. She's tall, she wants to bowl quick, and has that inswing which is lethal at times. We saw when she came back that it still swung. She's got a lot going for her."

Bell has displayed a happy knack of picking up big wickets in this competition. At Trent Bridge on Saturday she had Sammy-Jo Johnson, the Australian opener, caught at midwicket, before returning to dismiss Nat Sciver - set on 44 and going through the gears - with a back-of-the-hand slower ball which skidded into her leg stump.

I first watched Bell bowl live two years ago, for Southern Vipers on Kia Super League Finals Day, when she removed Loughborough Lightning's openers Amy Jones and Chamari Athapaththu in a probing new-ball spell. She struggled for rhythm and control as the day went on and was taken down by Heather Knight in the final, but it was the semi-final burst that stuck in the mind.

Two years on, she has clearly benefited from the regional contract she was awarded at the end of last year and the time she has spent around senior players, both in the England bubble and in the early phases of the Hundred. "The bubble was really good, a great chance to work with and learn from some of the best players and coaches in England," she said. "We're settling into the tournament: I just listen to what I'm told and what the captain says."

There are various other young fast bowlers ahead of her in the pecking order at England level, not least the Central Sparks and Birmingham Phoenix pair Emily Arlott and Issy Wong, while Freya Davies and Tash Farrant have been given recent opportunities in the T20I side. But if Bell can continue her wicket-taking form in a successful Brave side, her time may come sooner than she expects.