The 20-year old special talent delivers for England yet again under pressure. Sam Curran has all the qualities to become one of the best in Test cricket…..
A little movement back, a quick shuffle, fiery eyes and a confident, nearly arrogant, slog sweep that sent the Ravichandran Ashwin ball sailing into the crowd.
Swagger and persona oozing, Sam Curran, all of 20 years old, raised his bat to the crowd, barely smiling when he had a hundred reasons to, soaked in the applause and resumed batting. When Curran walked in to bat, England were 86/6 with Ben Stokes back in the hut. Two Tests ago at Edgbaston, he had walked in to bat at the exact same situation – 86/6 with Ben Stokes dismissed.
Then, Curran counter-punched with the audacity and blithe that England batsmen in this batting line-up have long forgotten. He cracked a mighty, game-changing half-century to follow up a four-wicket haul and walked away with the Man of the Match award only to be dumped for Ben Stokes’ glam and fame two Tests later.
With Woakes out injured, Curran had a second chance at Southampton and he grabbed it like it was his last clutch on the straw. With his incredible batting ability, he should and most likely would get a lot more straws. At 86/6, Curran was back to square one. He knew he had to play another Edgbaston kind knock to keep Woakes out when he returned.
With Moeen Ali, refreshed by a County double hundred last week, Curran stood up to India’s fabulous bowling attack on a tricky wicket. “It swung massively throughout the day. Even when I was in my 30s, it was swinging around consistently when the ball was 65 overs old. That surprised us a little bit – how much it swung, and how much it did off the wicket. There were some very good balls in there too, to a lot of the top order,” Curran said after the day.
He began sedately and unleashed his counter-attacking instincts by slapping Hardik Pandya for back to back boundaries in the 40th over. A third boundary in the over was perhaps the first warning sign for the Indians that Curran was back to torment them.
However, the pair remained impressively grounded and took their time building the partnership. Between Moeen’s two sixes – off Bumrah and Ashwin – there were no boundaries. Curran was amazingly controlled, yet confident with his defensive stroke play, impressing one and all.
Even when Ali and Rashid were dismissed in quick succession, Curran kept his cool. The knelt down slog sweep off Ashwin to reach his half-century was everything unlike what we are used from English batsmen these days. But this was a fresh graduate, unscathed and unscarred by previous battles.
Late last year, seam bowler Craig Overton twice top-scored for England. His exploits were followed up by a resilient Dom Bess against Pakistan and later Curran himself at Edgbaston. Chris Woakes then hit a splendid match-winning hundred at Lord’s against India; Jos Buttler looked to salvage England’s face with a confident, yet uncharacteristic approach.
There is a hint of freshness in each of these knocks. None of them has been party to England’s several failures with the bat at home to the extent of being scared. That kind of freshness is evident when you consider the nonchalance of Curran.
He notched up the top-score, perhaps taking England to a game-changing total yet another time. From 86/6, doubling the score would in itself, would have been a great deal. Curran nearly tripled it. England’s late order batting exploits have gained incredible stature in recent times and Curran, like Bairstow, Buttler and Stokes, would now be part of the folklore.
Since 2015, England’s top 5 vs that of batsmen at 6-8 make for interesting numbers. The too 5 average 34.14 with 22 hundreds in this time frame but batsmen at 6-8 have an average of 35.98 with 14 hundreds. It would be fair to say they have outperformed the top 5. With Curran in the mix now and England’s top-order still clueless, the trend could well continue.