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Brunt continues to marvel as her end-game looms

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Published in Cricket
Thursday, 04 August 2022 19:05

You wouldn't necessarily know it watching her rip opposing players' poles from the ground in true, vintage Brunt fashion. But with the spectre of retirement looming larger as England draw closer to their goal of winning a Commonwealth Games medal on home soil, this isn't exactly the Brunt of old.

Brunt hasn't set a date for her retirement, publicly at least. But, having declared that she had played her last Test during the Ashes in January, she recently told ESPNcricinfo that, whether she calls time on her international career after the Commonwealth Games or presses on to next year's T20 World Cup, the end would be "very soon".

"Everybody has ebbs and flows," Brunt said, touching briefly again on the difficulties she faced while struggling with her action during England's tour of Australia and then New Zealand for the ODI World Cup.

"I've had a lot of questions for myself and I've worked exceptionally hard in the last three months before this tournament. So it is funny because I'm feeling good, playing well, and it's hard to walk away from stuff like that. So yeah, a lot going on in my head right now."

She was speaking after claiming two wickets for just two runs in her first two overs to pound New Zealand into submission as they posted just 71 for 9 from 20 overs during their final group game. England won by seven wickets with 50 balls to spare to secure top spot in Group B and avoid favourites Australia in the semi-finals. New Zealand will face Group A leaders Australia in Saturday's second semi-final, to be played in the evening UK time, after England take on India in the day game.

Brunt has enjoyed an excellent tournament so far. She ended Thursday night's match with 2 for 4 from three overs, while she took 1 for 16 and scored an unbeaten 38 from 23 balls in a 26-run win against South Africa and claimed 1 for 8 from three overs as England beat Sri Lanka by five wickets.

Her fourth ball against New Zealand was an offcutter that sent Sophie Devine's leg stump cartwheeling, a ball she added to her arsenal under previous England Women's coach Mark Robinson.

"He challenged me to get better as a player," Brunt said. "He's seen a lot of 30-year-olds not be able to up their game at that stage. You either fizz out or you step up.

"It was a challenge and I wanted to prove him wrong, step up, so I gained a couple of balls and that's my banker, and I bring it out when I need to against who I need to. I'm really happy for having picked that up in such a late stage of my career."

Brunt's eighth delivery was similar but faster and pinged the top of Amelia Kerr's middle stump as New Zealand slid to 10 for 2. Then Issy Wong, the 20-year-old quick representing England's next wave of seam bowlers, took 2 for 10 from her three overs, including the tournament's leading run-scorer, Suzie Bates, to have New Zealand in dire distress.

Brunt was full of praise for the likes of Wong and left-arm seamer Freya Kemp, who is just 17, as is Alice Capsey, who sits second behind only Bates on the tournament run-scoring chart. All three England youngsters made their international debuts in the bilateral series against South Africa immediately before the Games and have taken to the task with ease, seeming to revel in the atmosphere of a 10,000-plus crowd at Edgbaston.

"I know for a fact they love it, and they're not intimidated," Brunt said. "They're very confident people and you can't play international sport without confidence and arrogance in a healthy way.

"It's like boxers isn't it? They talk a good game. They say they'll never lose, they're the best ever, and that's the kind of arrogance you've got to have because it takes a lot to step out into a crowd like that and put yourself out there in front of thousands of people. I'm glad they've got it because I feel like that's been a key ingredient for myself in my career."

Devine, the New Zealand captain, joked that the end of that illustrious career couldn't come quickly enough.

"To be perfectly honest, me and Suze [Bates] said we can't wait till she retires," Devine smiled. "She's been pestering us for 15-odd years. She's just outstanding. She defies her age and her skill is unbelievable, so full credit, to still be able to run in and bowl the way that she does.

"She's a really wily player. She probably isn't as quick as she used to be, she'll be the first to admit that... I hope so, because otherwise she's probably going to send me a few beamers. But a really smart bowler and she leads that team well. She will leave a massive hole when she does retire, which is hopefully very soon."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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