Sam Curran has enjoyed a great Test in Birmingham with bat and ball
First of all, I need to own up to an error in judgment. When England left-arm seamer Sam Curran made his Test debut against Pakistan at Leeds in June, I did not believe he was ready for Test cricket.
With his slight build and spirited-at-best bowling action, Sam did not turn heads during the game against Pakistan. There was no great pace, extravagant movement or bounce to suggest the 20-year-old could be a force to be reckoned with in Test cricket. Fast bowlers need to have a certain physique and pace to consistently challenge the best batsmen on all conditions in Test cricket. I had believed, at that time, that his brother Tom could have been a better option because he offered more pace and bounce.
When India prepared for the first Test in Birmingham, surviving the new ball against James Anderson and Stuart Broad was their main concern followed by the incisive bowling of all-rounder Ben Stokes. The medium to fast-medium left-arm bowling of Curran would not have been on top of the minds of India batsmen.
In the first innings of England’s batting, Curran’s 71-ball 24 helped England post 287 in the first essay and he then returned to not only break a dangerous looking opening stand of 50 but also ran through the Indian top order. His late left-arm swing proved more than a handful as Indian batsmen struggled to pick his line or length.
Then came his most defiant effort of the Test. With England down and almost out at 87-7 in the second innings and all main batsmen dismissed, Curran brought the hosts back into the match. And the icing on top of an amazing cake for Curran was the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane in the second innings.
Runs and wickets are always good but it’s the way Curran went about accumulating them in Birmingham that has stood out. With the bat and ball, he knew exactly what needs to be done. His run-scoring was a result of uncluttered thinking. With the ball, he knew where to bowl at batsmen and rarely veered from his line of attack.
“I remember me as a 20-year-old, and I didn’t know what was going on … I was in awe of everyone,” James Anderson said of Curran on Friday.
“But he knows exactly what he’s doing, how to set batsmen up, and we saw he has talent with the bat as well.”
There was concern, in some quarters, that Curran’s build might not be able to stand up to the demands of Test seam bowling over a longer period of time. But his batting has developed very well and he already has 11 first-class fifties along with 119 wickets from 42 games. A future as a batting all-rounder is a distinct possibility.
That Sam is a gritty character shouldn’t come as a surprise as the Zimbabwe born lad has seen quite a lot at an early age after his family was evicted from their farm in the African nation during the regime of Robert Mugabe. To come through such a situation at make it to the Test team while being a teenager shows that Sam is made of some pretty stern stuff and can handle most things that cricket can throw at him.