After enduring the most challenging year of her professional career to date, Lauren Winfield-Hill speaks to Katya Witney on mental health, contemplating retirement, and learning to enjoy cricket again.

When Lauren Winfield-Hill returned from the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand, she hit a breaking point. Having played international cricket for almost a decade and won over 100 England caps across formats, she was considering quitting cricket for good.

“I was in such an unhealthy place after the World Cup,” she tells “I had a bit of a meltdown. That first bit afterwards was just trying to be healthy and happy. I worked with a psychologist almost weekly just to get myself back on my feet and functioning as a human being a little bit better.

“I got to a place where I struggled a lot, and I didn’t want to continue. It was either that [change], or I’m going to retire. I had to realise that things didn’t work before I tried something else.”

Two games into the World Cup, Winfield-Hill had been dropped from England’s starting XI after returning scores of 0 and 12 in back-to-back losses. Across the four matches she had played in the multi-format Ashes that preceded the tournament, she had scored 98 runs and averaged less than 20. The last time she had made an international half-century was in 2016.

“I was struggling in the COVID bubbles and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue or whether it was worth it,” she says of her experience in New Zealand. “The only way I can describe it is it just became really heavy. Playing cricket felt like hard work when it should be fun and enjoyable. Of course, it’s hard work at times, but it shouldn’t feel heavy all the time.”

After watching England lose to Australia in the tournament final, Winfield-Hill returned home unsure whether she would play for England again. She underwent intensive work with a therapist before she was able to resume training with Northern Diamonds. It was there she rediscovered her love for the sport, and started an incredible purple patch of form in domestic cricket. A patch that she is still in the midst of a year later.

“I got 90-odd in the first T20 of the summer and that felt fun,” she says. “I was back with my mates at the club I’ve played for my whole life and, to be honest, it’s never felt heavy since. But that was probably the first time where I was like, oh s***, this can be enjoyable.”

Until she was bought by the Oval Invincibles for the 2022 Hundred, all of Winfield-Hill’s professional domestic cricket in England had been played for Headingley-based sides. It’s an environment that’s nurtured her talent and allowed her to forge an international career that’s spanned nearly a decade.

Her career has coincided with the era where women’s cricket in England has grown exponentially. When the first round of central contracts were dished out by the ECB in 2014, Winfield-Hill’s name was among the 18 who were fully employed by their country for the first time. In November 2022, when the names of centrally contracted players for the next 12 months were announced, for the first time since that initial list in 2014, Winfield-Hill’s name wasn’t there.

But, the expansion of the domestic game in England made the prospect of no longer being an England player an entirely different one from what it had been at the start of Winfield-Hill’s career.

“I felt like I was in a good space where, if I wasn’t playing for England or if I didn’t hold an England contract, it would be okay,” she says. “I knew that if I lost my contract I would be fine.”

“Also, I could still play a really good standard of cricket. It’s probably helped me look at England a bit differently in that it’s still very much an ambition, but if it doesn’t happen, I’m okay. Whereas before it felt like if you didn’t have an England contract or weren’t in an England squad or team, where do you go to get really good quality cricket? I think in a lot of ways it probably helped me knowing that I’ve been through the last six to 12 months. It’s not something I need to do, but it is something I want to do.

“Probably the biggest thing is the security of a regional contract and knowing that there are lots of domestic games and a good standard of cricket to be played. Other leagues are just added extras which are really cool opportunities, but they’re not necessities. You have a home, and I have a base and a team that I’ve always got to come back to. Whereas before, without that regional structure in place, we didn’t have that.

“That regional structure and the Diamonds just catch you when you fall from England where nothing caught you before.”

After that first Charlotte Edwards Cup game, where she hit four sixes and 12 fours scoring 96 runs off 51 balls, Winfield-Hill finished the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy as its leading run-scorer. She scored her fourth List A century against Southern Vipers before playing a crucial hand in the final at Lord’s, from which the Diamonds’ emerged victorious. Out of seven innings in the competition, only once was she dismissed before passing fifty.

The Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy win was the second trophy Winfield-Hill lifted last summer, having also played a key role in Oval Invincibles’ Hundred title defence. In the first match of the competition, she smashed an unbeaten 74 against her old team. Less than six months after considering retiring from cricket altogether, she was England’s most in-form batter on the domestic circuit.

“I stopped putting all my value on just being a cricketer,” she says of what sparked her turn around in form. “I know that I’m a lot more than that. Now I go shopping and play golf to distract myself in the day. I’ve completely changed the way I go about things.

“I was someone that thought about the game in an almost all-consuming way, over-analysing, looking at footage and reviewing my performance and, to be honest, I’ve scrapped the whole lot of it. I rarely look at bowlers to do a pre-plan until I get out into the middle, I just try to play the game as it is in front of me – I’m trying to be a bit more lighthearted and enjoy what I’m doing again.”

Despite losing her central contract, Winfield-Hill was recalled to the England squad for their first assignment under new head coach Jon Lewis in the Caribbean late last year. Having learnt to enjoy her cricket again, going back to the environment where it had gone so badly wrong a year before could have been a difficult prospect.

“My wife was pretty concerned about how it would be, going back into that space,” she says. “But it was something I was more willing to embrace because it felt like it was going into a new era with a new coach and that things would be fresh.

“There was probably a part of me that thought, I don’t want to close the door without knowing if I can transfer this into the England space, in terms of it being enjoyable and being light and fun. I’m certainly glad that I went back to it and got myself back there.”

As of yet, international runs have not followed the domestic form Winfield-Hill put together over the last 12 months. In the four T20Is she played in the West Indies last December, she averaged 11 across four innings with a high score of 24. Although she was included in the England squad that travelled to South Africa for the T20 World Cup in February, she did not feature in any of their matches.

But, outside of that environment, she has continued to dominate leagues around the World. In the Women’s League Exhibition – a precursor to the launch of a women’s PSL later this year – she scored 80 off 42 balls playing for the Super Women side. That was followed by an unbeaten century less than a month later in the Fairbreak Invitational tournament. She finished that innings having hit 120 runs off 64 balls including 22 boundaries.

In Northern Diamonds’ first outing in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy last weekend, she scored another fifty in a 105-run win over Western Storm. Most importantly, she’s doing it for herself.

“I feel like I’ve played really good T20 cricket for lots of different teams for about a year now,” she says. “Naturally you want to be able to play [for England] but there are a lot of good players that have also performed and are getting opportunities. I think the beauty of it is now, you get to move on pretty quickly.

“I can still play loads of cricket and have loads of fun and meet really cool people and know that I’m okay.”