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Match Analysis

Katherine Brunt: 'If I break after the Commonwealth Games, so be it'

Veteran seamer hell-bent on gold medal after rolling back the years in youthful T20I side

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Katherine Brunt claimed a career-best 4 for 15, including her 100th T20I wicket  •  Getty Images

Katherine Brunt claimed a career-best 4 for 15, including her 100th T20I wicket  •  Getty Images

"A new start" was how Katherine Brunt felt about her return to a fresh-faced England T20I side, which not only destroyed South Africa with five overs to spare but set down a marker for how they want to play a home Commonwealth Games starting from next week. And she bowled like it.
Even at the age of 37, Brunt's career-best T20I figures of 4 for 15, including her 100th wicket in the format, contained South Africa to 111 for 9 in the first of three matches between the sides at Chelmsford on Monday.
Then Sophia Dunkley applied the final flourish with a 39-ball 59 in her first innings as an opener, and with Issy Wong adding a maiden T20I cap to her Test and ODI debuts, there was a youthful feel to England's cricket, with Maia Bouchier and Bryony Smith also recalled to a new-look XI.
Brunt, however, was on hand to offer the wisdom of her 18-year international career, and as she settled back into the set-up after a solitary ODI appearance this summer, she admitted to feeling a new lease of life after the gruelling events of England's winter.
"It does feel like the World Cup and the Ashes were a thousand years ago," Brunt said. "I honestly feel like, bar this game, I've played one game this year. That's what it feels like because I've had such a long build-up.
"I've just hyped it up a bit much for myself, so it does feel great to be back because it does feel like it's been quite a while. But with the fresh outlook we've got on the squads and the environment, and how we go about stuff, it's really great too so it genuinely feels like a new start, and I'm having a great time."
Brunt put a major focus on competing at a home Commonwealth Games when she began considering the latter stages of her career and while this match represented her stepping up preparations for it in earnest, her performance belied how she felt.
"I genuinely feel like I had a bad day," Brunt said. "I felt rusty. When I came out at Northants, I was ready to go - fresh body, fresh mind, it was coming out lovely in the nets.
"I've had a couple of weeks and it's hard to stay like that, but I definitely got up for this game. I love T20 cricket - it's short, it's good on the body, the atmosphere is always brilliant, everybody gets behind it. We just have fun out there. So, even though I felt rusty, I'll take it. There's more to come, for sure.
"I don't think anyone's stopped thinking about the Commonwealth Games since we were told first that we were going to be in the Commonwealth Games. It sounds corny but growing up and watching people in the Olympics, with medals and podiums, I just adored those people and thought they were gods.
"To now be around those people and feel a part of what they're doing and who they are is, without being too corny, what my dreams were made of and I'm sure the girls think the same. I never ever thought this would happen. I'm so grateful and fortunate at the age I am to be here and still be able to be a part of it. It's great."
And while seven games lie ahead in the space of just over a fortnight, including the last two matches of this series if England reach the gold-medal match in Birmingham, Brunt said she was "willing to do whatever it takes to play all of those".
"I will certainly not hold back, and I will have that gold medal in mind every time." she said. "If it means I break at the end of it, I break. But it's going to take a lot for me to not be there."
Brunt said she was relishing having younger players in the squad - like fellow seamers Wong, 20, the as-yet uncapped left-armer Freya Kemp and allrounder Alice Capsey, who are both 17 - not only to advise but for her to learn from too.
"I've been waiting for some seamers to come along and be like: 'Oi, out of here Brunt. You're too old, it's my turn'. Now they're here in abundance, I'm like: 'Right, I better up my game.' It brings the best out of me, it definitely brings the best out of them," Brunt said.
"I'd love to think I could help and nurture them to start their careers off with a bit of advice that I'd have never got... I'd love to think I'd give them the stepping stone they need. I am genuinely really excited to see where they can go with it, so we're fortunate with what we've got on the bench, back home, in domestic cricket. The future looks good for England."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo