ENGLAND spin superstar Sophie Ecclestone says she can’t wait to help launch Lancashire Thunder’s bid for regional silverware this summer.

Ecclestone will begin the Ashes summer in Thunder colours on May 1 when they travel to face Nottingham-based Blaze at Welbeck Colliery, a Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy clash which could also feature Nat Sciver-Brunt for the hosts.

Left-arm spinner Ecclestone is in the latter stages of a three-week break following a busy winter which culminated in playing at the inaugural WPL competition in India last month. She returns to training next week.

In three years of regional cricket, she has only played seven times for Thunder and never more than three times in a season.

However, this summer, she could be available for as many as 12 regional fixtures, including the entirety of the Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 competition through late May and into June. 

“It’s going to be a great preparation for the Ashes,” said Ecclestone, 23. “I’m really excited to be playing for the Thunder.

“Normally, we’ll only play one or two games, but this year we can really get into it and help our teams win. I really want to see this team win a trophy. It’s a great team to be involved in, and they’re a great bunch of girls.

“I’m quietly confident (we can). We’ve been the underdogs for years, but we’ve got a great team now. Youngsters are coming through and players are a year older and wiser. It’s really exciting for the Red Rose.”

Ecclestone, ranked the world’s number one bowler by the ICC in both one-day and T20 cricket, was speaking at Thunder’s media day at Emirates Old Trafford yesterday (Monday).

The Chester-born spinner has returned home from a busy winter of international and franchise cricket, including spells at the Big Bash in Australia and the WPL in India.

“I’ve loved it. I think franchise cricket’s amazing,” she said. “I’m a big fan. 

“I get to go to Australia and to India, and I’m really lucky. You play against some of the top players in the world and on the same team as them too. It’s great to see how people work.

“The Aussies, going out there for the Big Bash with the (Sydney) Sixers, there was the likes of Ash Gardner, Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy. I was a bit like, ‘I’ve not spoken to these, I’ve only played against them’. But I got on really well with all of them. 

“We played together, but you also want to get one up on them. It will make it really exciting for the Ashes this year.”

Ecclestone was the WPL’s joint leading wicket-taker with 16 as the UP Warriorz made it through to the finals series. But she also contributed significantly with the bat.

While a return of 70 runs in seven innings across nine matches with the bat may not seem anything to write home about, she was key for her side down the order. In hitting not out scores of 22, 16 and 19, she was there at they end as they successful chased down targets to win a trio of matches.

And it is something she is keen to do more of - highlighting a role which needs filling in England’s team as another star name edges closer to complete retirement.

“That’s something that’s going to be massive for me, to get an all-round position in that England team and bat that six or seven in T20 and start to win us games,” she said. 

“That was something I did in the WPL, and hopefully I can do it for my country.

“I can do it with the ball, but I want to do it with the bat and be the next Katherine Sciver-Brunt - the next all-rounder.

“That’s something that takes hard work and dedication, so hopefully I can get back to my cricket next week and put some hard work in which will start showing in the summer.

“I’d love to take that role of her’s that she’s going to leave soon. She’s still playing T20s, but hopefully in a few years I can take that position on from her.”

And on the prospect of facing the other Sciver-Brunt, Nat, in that aforementioned game against the Blaze on May 1, she added: “We’ll see. Some of the England players have been given longer breaks.

“It’s all very individual. Part of me hopes she’s not playing so I don’t have to bowl at her! 

“But it will be great for English cricket if we all play.”