A World Cup cricketer has thanked Burnley Leisure and Culture (BLC) for a sporting grant that has helped her prepare for the inaugural ICC U19s Women’s T20 World Cup taking place in South Africa.

Burnley-born all-rounder Liberty Heap is part of the 15-strong squad competing in the tournament billed as a showcase for the future stars of the women’s game.

England are having a successful tournament so far, having topped their group with three wins out of three, beating Zimbabwe by 176 runs, Pakistan by 53 runs, and Rwanda by 138 runs.

Lancashire Telegraph: Liberty has featured in all three of England's games so farLiberty has featured in all three of England's games so far (Image: Burnley Leisure and Culture)

Liberty has also been a top performer, top-scoring with 64, including 12 fours, when she opened the batting against Rwanda.

This followed up the 25 she made against Zimbabwe. However, she was dismissed for just four when England beat Pakistan.

Liberty rose to prominence playing at academy level for North West Thunder and the government-led ECB School Games Programme, and she made history when she became the first female to captain the cricket team at Stonyhurst College near Clitheroe.

Liberty said: “The sporting grant from BLC has massively helped me in so many ways.

“Due to getting selected for England U19s and training three days a week with the North West Thunder, it has been difficult to work in other employment whilst pursuing my dream of becoming a professional athlete.

"This meant I had very little income which made it difficult for me to get through my day-to-day life financially.

“Without the support of Burnley Leisure and Culture my training hours would have been significantly reduced. Thank you to everyone at BLC for supporting me in continuing to improve and grow as a player and as a person.”

Paul Foster, BLC’s deputy chief executive, said: “We’re extremely proud of what Liberty is achieving in her chosen sport.

"She is a credit to herself, and to the borough of Burnley. We’re all watching her progress and hoping we will see her and her team triumph.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Liberty discovered cricket at nine-years-old after playing it in a PE lessonLiberty discovered cricket at nine-years-old after playing it in a PE lesson (Image: Burnley Leisure and Culture)

Liberty discovered her love of cricket after playing it in a PE lesson at primary school.

She then asked her parents if she could start playing and joined junior sessions at Lowerhouse CC, where her stepdad Ben Heap captains the first XI.

She was chosen for Lancashire U11s at age nine and has played there ever since, and still makes the odd appearance at Lowerhouse if she has no Lancashire or Thunder fixtures.

Her priority now is helping England lift the World Cup, but long-term she aims to secure a full-time professional contract with North West Thunder, make the squad to appear at this summer’s The Hundred competition, and make her way into the senior England set-up.

England’s next game sees them take on Ireland in their first Super Six fixture on Saturday, January 21, in Potchefstroom, before they look to secure a semi-final place against West Indies on Wednesday, January 25, in the same ground.