'I've got too big a drive to stop' - Katherine Brunt

Katherine Brunt celebrates her dismissal of Suzie Bates Getty Images

Over the past fortnight of international action, in both men's and women's cricket, there's been no place to hide if you are a toiling fast bowler. Records have been obliterated wherever you care to look - from New Zealand women's 490 against Ireland, to England men's 481 against Australia, to England women's 250 in a T20 against South Africa at Taunton last week.

"Yeah, it does make you question why you do what you do," says Katherine Brunt, England's veteran quick bowler, with the sort of lugubrious air that Angus Fraser might have cultivated in his pomp.

"There's not much fun in it any more. One of the main things our coach tells us now is accept you are going to get hit, the pitches are that good and the balls don't move off the straight so you have to be very highly skilled at variations and consistent lines and lengths.

"You mainly have to accept the fact that you are going to get smashed a few times, you have to keep working hard and you'll get your rewards that way."

However, Brunt, who turns 33 next week, is not half as downcast as she might like to let on - not even when the conversation turns to the astonishing wicketkeeping skills of Sarah Taylor, whose half-volleyed leg-side stumping off Dane van Nierkerk at Taunton was a bittersweet moment for the fastest bowler in England's ranks.

"It's actually demoralising," she says. "It makes me think I can't be that quick if you can just do that! But I've played with Sarah since she was 16, so I know what she's capable of. It wasn't a massive shock to me, but for people watching it's jawdropping. You do have to take a moment to say that was pretty special, but I bet if you asked her, she'd say it's not as hard as you think."

But realistically there is little reason for Brunt to grumble at present. England's women are riding the crest of their post-World Cup wave, having out-muscled South Africa in a closely fought ODI series before providing some quality entertainment in the opening rounds of the T20 Triangular, for which they are virtually guaranteed a berth in Sunday's final at Chelmsford after a pair of hard-hitting wins over both opponents.

"The venues have been great, the crowd attendance has been great, the feedback's been brilliant, the media support too," says Brunt. "And the weather has been incredible, we've been melting down in Bristol for the past two days. All of our games seem go down to the wire at the moment because the teams are so evenly balanced, and that makes for really good entertainment. But it doesn't work quite so well for the state of my nails, or getting heart attacks midway through games!"

With three wickets at 19.66 in the campaign to date, Brunt has done her bit for the cause with ball in hand. But increasingly, she is being trusted as a frontline batting option - not least in the world-record 250, when she was pushed up the order to No.4 with licence to give it some humpty, and duly walked off the field 16 balls later with 42 not out to her name.

"I've been working on my batting a lot recently," she says. "I used to be a bit of a slogger but I've turned myself into a genuine allrounder. My skill has come on a bit, I can hit balls in different areas now rather than just being a one-track batter, so I've got Robbo [coach Mark Robinson] to thank for that, and hopefully I can keep getting better."

Brunt's innings on that day at Taunton included three fours and three sixes, and followed another fine performance in the first ODI of the summer against South Africa, when she produced a career-best 72 not out to double England's total after they had slumped to 97 for 8.

"It's mostly a mental thing," she adds. "The hardest thing about batting is that you have to believe it yourself, and then I needed someone else to believe it too, not just me. It's always been a bit of a ****-take, for want of a better word. People would laugh at me if I said I could bat, and they'd just say 'no'.

"So once people started to take me more seriously, I was allowed to take myself more seriously, and spend a bit more time on it, and I could see the improvement from where my game was."

The development of an extra string to Brunt's bow is a vital aspect of her career evolution, as she begins to accept the inevitability of time creeping up on her 13-year England career.

"I ask myself this question in two-month intervals," Brunt says on the subject of her eventual retirement. "It's just where my body's at really. I did used to say I'd quit when I didn't love it anymore, but I can't see that happening because my passion will always be there.

"I'm very stubborn and a perfectionist. There's always more I can do to be better, It'll be my body that caves in in the end, and I don't see that happening yet, but I've got too big a drive to stop. The choice will have to be taken out of my hands in the end, but women's sport is going places, with different formats and competitions taking place, which make it harder to walk away."

As and when she does depart, however, Brunt will be able to reflect on a career that has spanned two distinct eras of women's cricket - and while the professional era is still in its infancy, the standards have been rocketing in recent months, not just out in the middle where no total seems safe anymore, but in the nets where the next generation are developing rapidly.

"We've never really been challenged in the nets on tours until recently," says Brunt. "Now a few girls have turned up with a yard or two of pace or a bit about them. These are 16-17 year olds with variations from nowhere, and they do open your eyes and make you think 'blimey!'

"Five or six years ago, kids coming into the nets as net bowlers weren't very good, you'd have to get the coach to give you throwdowns because the standard wasn't good, but now they are getting you out every other ball.

"There's some real good talent coming through from the counties, lots of girls with the skills to bowl yorkers and out of the back of the hand. The likes of our performance squad girls, who unfortunately miss out a lot of the time like Beth Langston and Kate Cross, and Katie George, who's just on the scene with pacy left-arm inswing. There's a lot to be excited about, for now and in the future."

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