By Dominic Farrell
England seamer Katherine Brunt is ready to tear into Australia’s top order once more having played through the pain barrier to regain the Women’s Ashes last summer.
Brunt was an ever-present with the new ball as England claimed a 12-points-to-four victory in the multi-format rubber, only going wicketless in one of seven matches despite managing an ongoing back complaint.
A period of rest and recuperation was prescribed, meaning Brunt missed the recent tour of the Caribbean due to a problem she has grappled with throughout her career.
It is a story familiar to countless top-class pace bowlers – Ryan Harris, one of Australia’s leading performers in the ongoing men’s Ashes contests, could be seen as something of a kindred spirit – but Brunt happily reports she is approaching full fitness ahead of next month’s return series Down Under.
“It’s more of a chronic problem that I’ve had,” she told ecb.co.uk. "It’s not something that I’ve just picked up; it’s something I’ve had to deal with since I was 15 years old and have to manage very well, not something that I can necessarily get rid of.
“That became a real issue just before the Ashes. I got through the Ashes series just about in one piece. It was a real, real struggle to play anywhere near my best cricket.
“I was probably going at about 70 per cent but I got through it, which was great and then after that I had to take quite a big break to make myself fit in time for this Ashes coming.
“It was a matter of sacrificing the West Indies for Australia, which is obviously quite upsetting and difficult but I do what is best for the team.
“It was definitely the right decision. I had a few options in terms of surgery, rehab and other kinds of procedures. I took the rehab route and it’s worked out well. I can’t say I’m 100 per cent but I’m practically back to my best and I think I will be more than ready for the Ashes."
Brunt sprung to prominence in 2005 as the star of that summer’s Ashes triumph, taking 14 wickets in two Tests and scoring a format-best 52 with the bat.
But series in Australia have not provided such happy memories. Back surgery ruled Brunt out of the 2007-08 tour, while she grappled with those issues and a shin complaint as an injury-ravaged England lost in 2011.
“If you take one of your strong players out of the team it makes a difference,” Brunt explained. “England lost (Jonathan) Trott recently and it makes a difference – it makes a difference harmoniously and skill-wise.
“We weren’t just missing our number three in Clare Taylor; we were missing our opening batter in Sarah Taylor and our other opening bowler in Nicky Shaw. We didn’t have Anya (Shrubsole) then either, so it wasn’t one hole – there was four.
“But now we’ve got four good seamers, three of which have been openers for the last few years. We’ve got Sarah back, we’ve got Heather (Knight) back to full-strength, we’ve got (captain) Charlotte (Edwards), so we’re looking really, really good at the minute.”
With a sense of unfinished business lingering, Brunt insists England have left no stone unturned as they look to claim a fifth Ashes win in six attempts.
She added: “We know how to play tactically, we know how to best prepare for the heat – basically what’s coming. We’ve looked at their squad and their weaknesses inside out.
“All the new players that they’ve selected we’ve played against previously so we’re well aware of what they can and can’t do.”
Follow the Women's Ashes ball-by-ball via the following media:
Live Scores: www.ecb.co.uk and www.cricket.com.au
Twitter: @ECB_cricket and @SouthernStars
Television: live stream at www.cricket.com.au
Radio: 5 Live Sports Extra, ABC Grandstand or online via www.cricket.com.au/live/audio-stream