You wouldn’t necessarily notice it if you saw her ripping opposing players’ poles off the ground in true, old Brunt fashion. But as England moves closer to their goal of winning a Commonwealth Games medal on home soil, the specter of retirement grows.
“Everyone has ups and downs,” Brunt said, touching briefly on the difficulties she faced struggling with her action during England’s tour of Australia and then New Zealand for the ODI World Cup.
“I had a lot of questions for myself and I’ve worked exceptionally hard over the past three months leading up to this tournament. So it’s funny because I feel good, I’m playing well and it’s hard to put things like that behind me. So yeah, there’s a lot going on in my head right now.”
She spoke after claiming two wickets for just two runs in her first two overs to force New Zealand to resign as they scored just 71 for 9 from 20 overs during their final group game. England won by seven wickets and 50 balls to go to secure top spot in Group B and dodge favorites Australia in the semi-finals. New Zealand meet Group A leaders Australia in Saturday’s second semi-final, played in the evening UK time, after England meet India in the day’s game.
Brunt has played an excellent tournament so far. She finished Thursday night’s match 2-4 from three overs while going 1-16 and going unbeaten 38 from 23 balls in a 26-run win over South Africa and 1-8 from three overs as England beat Sri Lanka five gates.
“He challenged me to get better as a player,” Brunt said. “He’s seen a lot of 30-year-olds failing to improve their game at that stage. Either you fizzle out or you appear.
“It was a challenge and I wanted to prove him wrong, step up, so I won a few balls and that’s my banker and I bring it out when I have to, against who I have to. I’m really happy to have picked this up at such a late stage in my career.”
Brunt was full of praise for players like Wong and Freya Kemp, who is only 17, as well as Alice Capsey, who is second in the tournament run rankings behind Bates. All three England youngsters made their international debuts in the bilateral series against South Africa just before the games and undertook the task with ease and seemed to enjoy the atmosphere of over 10,000 spectators in Edgbaston.
“I know for a fact that they love it and aren’t intimidated,” Brunt said. “They are very confident people and without confidence and arrogance you can’t play international sport in a healthy way.
“It’s like boxers, isn’t it? You’re talking a good game. They say they’ll never lose, they’re the best ever and that’s the kind of arrogance you have to have because it takes a lot to step out, walk into a crowd like that and present yourself in front of thousands of people . I’m glad they have it because I feel like this has been a key ingredient for me in my career.
Devine, the New Zealand captain, joked that the end of an illustrious career couldn’t come soon enough.
“To be perfectly honest, me and Suze [Bates] said we can’t wait until she retires,” Devine smiled. “She has been harassing us for over 15 years. She is simply outstanding. She defies her age and her skill is incredible so full credit to still be able to walk and roll like she does.
“She’s a really smart player. She’s probably not as fast as she used to be, she’ll be the first to admit that… I hope so because otherwise she’ll probably send me some beamers. But a really smart bowler and she runs this team well.She will leave a huge hole in her wake when she retires which hopefully will be very soon.
Valkerie Baynes is General Editor at ESPNcricinfo