Katherine Brunt ‘big loss’ to England Women Test team as side enters new era, says Lisa Keightley

England will play South Africa in a Test Match at Taunton from June 27, without the withdrawn Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole; Emily Arlott, Lauren Bell and Freya Davies take aim at Test debuts as the side begins an “exciting new era” – watch the game live on Sky Sports

Katherine Brunt retired from Test Cricket at the weekend – the closer took 51 wickets in 14 games at an average of 21.53

England head coach Lisa Keightley says Katherine Brunt will be a “huge loss” as she plans how to compose a test attack without the closer and her long-time partner Anya Shrubsole.

Brunt, 36, announced his retirement from the longer format to focus on the white ball game, while Shrubsole, 30, quit all forms of international cricket in April.

As a result, England’s rhythm unit will get a fresh feel when they play South Africa in Taunton between June 27-30, live on sky sports.

Seam bowlers Lauren Bell and Emily Arlott could make their first international appearances, while fellow pacer Freya Davies is set to play her first test after 24 limited games for her country.

Keightley said of Brunt and Shrubsole’s departures: “They’ve both been on the ball for over 10 years and doing what they do. They’ve had ups and downs in their form, but overall they’ve been very consistent.

“You know what you’re going to get from them. We don’t know what we’re going to get from the others, but that’s exciting and it brings new opportunities.”

“It’s the end of an era and we need to create a new one, see which players are going to put their hands up and lead the way with the ball. Our hands have been forced, so let’s see how it goes.”

“Katherine is going to be a huge loss in Test cricket. There are times in games when she has the team behind her and times like that are going to be really hard to replace, as is her passion and fire.

“I don’t know if we have another person on the team with his fire, that competitive edge and ruthlessness. We’ll find out if we have another on the wings with the same white line fever.”

Brunt, who claimed 51 wickets in 14 Tests, says leaving the red ball arena was “heartbreaking” but that the decision will allow him to put all his efforts into short-form cricket.

Keightley told reporters that Brunt’s focus is now squarely on the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer, with the event including a women’s T20 tournament for the first time.

Seam bowler Lauren Bell could make her England debut during the Test match at Taunton

“I was not surprised [Brunt retired from Test cricket]. The Commonwealth Games are their priority. She wants to play in that tournament and be in a very good place, fit and healthy to do it,” Keightley said.

“We know from our last two test matches that 10 days in she’s really struggled and we know with multi-format series they get thick and fast.” [England’s Test match against South Africa is followed by three one-day internationals and as many T20 internationals].

“In the end, she didn’t have the bowling loads behind her to play in this test. It would have been a high risk.”

“He probably thought the next Ashes [in 2023] it was too far away, so if he didn’t play in this test, he probably wouldn’t play another one.

“I think she’s made the smart move and knowing that we can get her in the best place before the Commonwealth Games is quite exciting.

International Cricket Council chairman Greg Barclay said recently that he doesn’t think women’s test matches are “part of the picture moving forward in any real measure”.

Asked about those comments, Keightley added: “I’ve been in women’s cricket for a few decades so it’s disappointing to hear.

“Realistically, I don’t think every country can play this format, I understand that, but I think we should challenge and have the desire to improve women’s cricket and make it grow. The way to do that is to play more Test matches.

“Players really want to play it. I think the last few Test matches have shown that it’s quite an exciting format if we play it to move the game forward. You have to learn the art of Test cricket.”

Watch England’s test match against South Africa live on Sky Sports from June 27.

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