Katherine Brunt continues to sharpen her knives and promises more
People find it comforting to put all athletes into certain brackets using various adjectives. Cool, calm, laid-back, aggressive, feisty and so on. Some players are students of the game, while others are masters of it; kings, queen, you get the gist. Katherine Brunt is always described as a fierce competitor, someone who gives her 100% in everything, but if you get rid of all the cliches – Brunt is a fast bowler and a very good one at that.
Be it 2005 or 2022, when Brunt runs into bowl, those who face her and those who watch her from the outside know they shouldn’t be mucking around. That’s not just because she is perceived as someone who could be in your face with her aggression, but also because of her fast bowling. Even when she is bowling a slower delivery – and she’s got a terrific back of the hand one in her armoury – it feels like she is doing it as an occupational hazard. Just sample this – she would also complain about her team-mates making her run the extra yard on Thursday. But given a choice, Brunt would run in all day and bowl fast and she has the skills to execute it.
And those skills, that gave her a seemingly never-ending career that’s now in its 18th year, were the most noticeable thing that was on display during the first T20I between England and South Africa at the County Ground in Chelmsford on Thursday (July 21).
Having had an underwhelming World Cup 2022 by her standards and also having announced her retirement from Test matches, Brunt’s international appearances were restricted to just the first ODI against South Africa during this home summer, until Thursday night.
“It does feel like the World Cup and the Ashes were 1000 years ago. And I honestly feel like this, I played one game this year, that’s what it feels like,” Brunt said in a post-match interaction after the first T20I. “I think because I’ve had such a long build up, we’ve had a good amount of time off and then a long build up to this series. I think I’ve just like hyped it up a bit much for myself.”
“So, it does feel really great to be back because it feels like I’ve been gone a while. But I think with the fresh outlook we’ve got on this – on the squads and the and the environment and how we go about stuff is – really great to genuinely feel like a new start and I’m having a great time.”
‘New start and I am having a great time’. Those words are going to make the batters around the world uncomfortable if her bowling wasn’t doing that already.
Brunt made her T20I debut back in 2005 – the second-ever match played in format – and opened the bowling with Jenny Gunn. She finished with figures of 3 for 18 on a day where all of her team-mates failed to take a wicket. Now we are in 2022 – a lot of water has flown under the bridge in this period – and Issy Wong, on her T20I debut, is the most exciting thing about the England pace-bowling contingent in many years. But Brunt was still charging in like she was making her debut alongside the young Wong in the 1168th match of the format.
And the game continues to reward Brunt for her hard work; 17 years and 97 matches later, she now has new career-best figures in T20Is and she is also now the joint-highest wicket-taker for England in the format, joining the now-retired Anya Shrubsole, her long-time new ball partner.
On the night, Brunt snared Lara Goodall with the fourth ball of her spell and then castled the opposition skipper, Sune Luus, in her second over. She then came back at the death to take two more wickets, including that of the top-scorer Laura Wolvaardt.
To be on brand with her perception, Brunt wasn’t too pleased with her efforts.
“It’s a difficult one because I genuinely feel I had a bad day. I know a lot of people keep doing that and saying that, but I felt rusty. When I came out of Northants, I was ready to go. I was fresh – my body, fresh mind – and it was coming out lovely in the nets. And then obviously I’ve had a bit of a couple of weeks and it’s hard to stay like that,” Brunt added.
“But I definitely got up for this game and I love T20 cricket. It’s short, it’s good on the body. The atmosphere is always brilliant. Everyone gets behind it and you just have fun. We just have fun out there. And so even though I felt rusty, I’ll take it. Thank you. But, yeah, there is more to come for sure.”
Wong, the 20-year-old, is similar to Brunt in some ways with regards to the skiddy nature of her bowling style. But they have a contrasting persona, for the youngster always seems to be bowling with a smile. The 37-year-old is happy to welcome the newbies into the environment, but she won’t be giving up the throne for anyone. Brunt is happy to fight it out with the novices and better her game.
“I get the knives out. No, I’m all for it. I’ve been waiting for some seamers to come along and be like, ‘Oh, right out of here. You’re too old, it’s my turn’. And so now that they’re here in abundance, I’m like, right, so I get better at my game,” Brunt added with a chuckle.
“It brings the best out of me. Definitely brings the best out of them. I would love to think I could help and nurture them to start their careers off with a bit of advice that I would never have got in ten years’ time. I’d love to think I’d give them the stepping stone they need and I am genuinely really excited to see where they can go with it.”
Brunt might be the senior-most figure in the team. But like her young team-mates, oppositions should also be wary of her for ‘There is to more to come for sure’.