It’s not easy for a bowler to earn a national call and make an immediate impact. A bowler has to be the best in order to earn a national call and when he does the feeling is just incredible. Any cricketer making an international debut is certainly under immense pressure – the pressure to perform, justify his selection and expectations to do well for the side. And very few manage to hold their nerves and stand out in such high-pressure situation. For a bowler, it is always handy to make his first impression a good one.
England played South Africa in the second Twenty20 International (T20I) of the three-match series at Taunton on Friday. Prior to the game, England were already up by 1-0 and the onus of making a comeback was on South Africa. England gave two youngsters a chance to showcase their talent on an international platform as they handed Tom Curran and Liam Livingstone their first international cap. Both Curran and Livingstone are in their early 20s and have been a consistent performer in domestic circuit to sculpt a spot in the international side. Curran is a young, 22-year-old pace bowler who clocks 85 mph consistently and has a fantastic slower one in his armoury.
England won the toss and elected to bowl first on a surface, which was conducive for batting. England bowlers did a decent job in restricting the powerful South African batting to a score of 174. By looking at the star-studded English batting, chasing such a challenging total was well under their reach but it wasn’t to be. South African bowlers stepped up and did a magnificent job in defending 174 to win the game by a whisker and levelled the series by 1-1. However, the high-voltage encounter saw a debutant making an immediate impact with the ball. Tom Curran steamed in and bowled with immense confidence to scalp three wickets and embraced international cricket emphatically.
South Africa started off cautiously and garnered 23 runs off the first three overs. Tom Curran was given the ball and the talented right-arm pacer didn’t disappoint. On his very second ball, Curran induced a bottom edge off Reeza Hendricks’ willow, which deflected onto the stumps. Curran was delighted as he picked his first international wicket on the very second ball and provided his side the much-needed breakthrough. Curran completed his first over with a wicket and gave away just four runs to get a solid start.
Curran was then taken for runs in his next over as South African batsmen milked 15 runs from it. JJ Smuts smashed a boundary off his first delivery and then Mangaliso Mosehle plundered a six and a boundary in the very same over and took full advantage of Curran’s inexperience. Eoin Morgan decided to save Curran for death overs as Liam Plunkett replaced him. Curran never looked short of confidence and did well in his second spell.
In a format of uncertainties like T20s, death bowling is undoubtedly one of the most difficult jobs. South Africa were in a good position at 130 for 5 in 15 overs with a hard-hitting Chris Morris and Farhaan Behardien at the crease. Morgan trusted the young bowler with a huge responsibility and once again he responded to the occasion. Curran altered his length wisely and varied his pace well, further making himself unpredictable. He gave away just six runs in the 16th over and delivered a solid over more importantly.
The 17th and 18th over were bowled by David Willey and Chris Jordan as Morgan decided to use the solitary over of Curran on the 19th. Curran delivered a solid 19th over, picking two wickets and giving away just eight runs. The first delivery to Behardien was a low full toss, which was an attempted yorker that didn’t go right. One run off the first ball. Morris favours hitting on the legside, which is also his strength. Curran’s next delivery was back of a hand one(slower one), pitched outside off. Morris top-edged it towards deep midwicket and Jason Roy did extremely well to pull off a fantastic catch. His slower ones were difficult to pick as he bowled it without any discernible change in action, which can be lethal in death overs where batsmen look to attack.
Behardien was quick to spot his next slower one and smashed it for a huge six. The third delivery yielded a single and on the strike was Andile Phehlukwayo. Curran bowled an amazing yorker and hit the off-stump to pick his third wicket of the innings. Phehlukwayo was taken by a surprise as Curran was right on the money with the ball. Curran finished 19th over with two wickets and conceded just right runs off it. He finished with figures of 3 for 33 in his four overs and made an immediate impact with the ball. He was the highest wicket-taker in the game and second best in terms of economy for England after David Willey.
It was amazing to see a young bowler making an impact on an international platform. Curran has attracted enormous attention with his bowling and has the potential to make it big. Although, it won’t be appropriate to judge him on the basis of one performance, but he has shown the signs of a bowler who create an impact.
England have developed into a solid limited-overs side in recent times. They have gelled well as a unit and have most of their bases covered. They were tipped to win the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy but lost the game against Pakistan in the semi-final. With 2019 World Cup approaching, Curran could be a handy addition to the squad and a useful backup. With another game to go in the three-match series against South Africa, Curran will certainly be the man to watch out for. The third and the final game will be played on Sunday at Cardiff, which is a virtual final as the winner will claim the series.