Katherine Sciver-Brunt announced her retirement from international cricket today (May 5), bringing to an end a career which spanned almost two decades and made her the most decorated fast-bowler in English history.

Sciver-Brunt’s career embodies the journey women’s cricket has undergone in England, and throughout the world, over the last two decades. She made her England debut in 2004 against New Zealand in a Test match at Scarborough, with ODI and T20I debuts coming in the following year. From the very beginning, she was the leader of England’s attack, despite persistent back injuries, and became a talisman of the modern game in England unmatched in stature.

It took another ten years after Sciver-Brunt’s debut for the ECB to hand out the first tranche of fully professional central contracts – of which she was one of the 18 players awarded one. By that point in her career, she had already played 124 international matches for England. By contrast, in 2021 Trent Rockets paid £25,000 for Sciver-Brunt in the inaugural edition of the Hundred.

After 267 matches for England and 335 wickets, she finishes her career as England’s leading wicket-taker in both women’s ODIs and T20Is. On the all-time wicket-taking standings, she is sixth in T20Is and fifth in ODIs. In women’s Tests, she is the third England bowler to take more than fifty wickets (Enid Bakewell has fifty) and the only player to do so for England in the last sixty years.

For a generation of those who grew up watching women’s cricket as it transferred onto TV screens, into professionalism and now franchise competition, she is part of the first fully visible set of players who carved the path forward. In the wake of Shabnim Ismail’s retirement earlier this week, Dane van Niekerk’s two months ago and the context of Jhulan Goswami’s at the end of last summer, the end of Sciver-Brunt’s career is part of a significant departure of the elder statesmen of the international women’s game.

In a statement on her retirement, Sciver-Brunt said: “I never had any dreams or aspirations to do what I’ve done, I only ever wished to make my family proud of me. And what I’ve achieved has gone way beyond that.

“I have so much to be thankful for, cricket has given me a purpose, a sense of belonging, security, many golden memories and best friends that will last a lifetime. Of the trophies and titles I could have wished to achieve, I have reached them all, but my greatest achievement is the happiness that I have found in Nat.”

Only two other England players have won as many ICC World Cup trophies as Sciver-Brunt across the T20I and fifty-over format. She was part of the England team that won the 2017 World Cup final in front of a packed house at Lord’s, scoring 34 runs in England’s innings before conceding just 22 runs from her six overs with the ball. In 2009, she was among the England squad that won double World Cups and was player of the match in the T20 World Cup final, having helped England to their third women’s Cricket World Cup title three months before.

In 2013 and 2014, Sciver-Brunt was also part of England’s winning Ashes squads – England have not won an Ashes series since then – and was also part of the victorious home Ashes squad in 2005.

Speaking to BBC Test Match Special on her retirement, Sciver-Brunt said: “I never wanted it to end. It’s given me the best friends for life, a wife, a roof over my head. It’s saved my life for sure and it’s created me an amazing life that I could only have dreamed of.

“It’s everything I needed to be who I am today. I’m proud of the last 19 years and I’m proud of who I am now and all the people that I’ve played with.”

Reactions filled social media feeds with gratitude for one of England’s finest-ever.