Sam Curran: A Coming Of Age For The Surrey Wizard
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
As is the quote, so was the setting. Ben Stokes pulled off a Jon Snow impression as he overcame Ramsay Bolton (read: Virat Kohli) , not in terms of evil power but for his towering might as he looked to threaten England’s 100% win record at Edgbaston.
In retrospect, barring the knocks of Kohli, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, batting woes against old foes resurfaced. Yet one can say that the game was played on even grounds as India’s bowling had the tenacity and skill set to restrict the English batsmen to a subpar total on a pitch that had enough rough for the spinners going into day three and four while the seamers nipped the ball both ways to keep the batsmen guessing.
Even with no signs of lalochezia yet, the battle of supremacy , with an armoury of mic drops, mighty swing of the cherries and edges manoeuvring to the slips, was a keenly contested tussle.
England left no stone unturned to be a side ready to stamp their authority come the first Test. Quite often, desperate times call for desperate measures. They played down any threat of Kuldeep Yadav by employing 16-year old Bradford-born left-arm wrist-spin prodigy Sam Wisniewski in the nets. The idiom was further vindicated when Adil Rashid was called up due to “lack of options”, creating a furore among fans and media. Not to mention how the legends of the game saw the selection only to suggest that the ECB had once again tried to undermine the fabric of the County Championship.
Then there was the hype of the match-up of Virat Kohli against Jimmy Anderson but one name that didn’t do the rounds was that of Sam Curran. Knowing that the Indian batting line-up finds the left-arm craft as their Achilles’ heel, he had no expectations to live up to amidst all the pre-series build-up.
He’s England’s first left-arm quick since Ryan Sidebottom last played in 2010 and very few expected the Zimbabwe-born all-rounder to start in the XI, given that Jamie Porter had excelled in the matches leading up to the Test.
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England were reeling at 130-7 with an unthreatening lead of 143. The fate of a resurrection and perhaps an English victory rested in the hands of Sam Curran.
Into the 40th over, Ashwin bowled full at middle & leg as Curran defended it back to him. The next delivery is full again as Curran gets a stride forward looking to drive firmly through the line but finds mid-off . He’s looking solid and in complete control. Next ball, Ashwin drags back his length from full to short only for Curran, sensing an opportunity for valuable runs here, rocks back onto his front foot and pulls through the midwicket region for a boundary. He doesn’t look to overhit it when under control. Edgbaston is buzzing and back on its feet. The Barmy Army belts out their rendition.
After a while, he brings up his maiden Test fifty and is eventually dismissed for 63 off 65. He’s done his job after putting his hand up when very few could. In the first innings, he picked 4-74 after dismantling the Indian top-order and thundered an inswinging Yorker at an unassuming Hardik Pandya to add to India’s misery.
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Sam was probably stringing conkers when Jimmy Anderson made his International debut, yet here he was playing alongside him but more importantly, he outbowled him to take the match honours.
From looking to dismiss Kohli prior to the Test to looking up to him for a rearguard lower-order knock, he had exceeded expectations, if any, before leaving an indelible image in the minds of the English fans.
“I am the youngest so I always had to bowl the longest” , complains Sam before Tom, his brother, interrupts, “ That’s a lie mate, you always used to bat!”
The Currans- Sam and Tom- are very much your regular siblings. They steal each other’s clothes and wont admit it, they’ll take the blame for any wrongdoings yet will eventually turn you in but above all, they will be proud of each other’s achievements because they are much more than just teammates.
If the elder one achieves something significant, the younger one aint far off. Belonging to a cricketing family, their father, Kevin, played eleven Tests for Zimbabwe in the 1980s and their brother, Benjamin, plays for Northamptonshire.
In December 2015, Sam made his County Championship debut and picked five wickets straightaway. Two years later, he earned his first England call-up shortly after bagging his first contract as an overseas player for Auckland Aces in the NZ Super Smash. At the same time, Tom made his Test debut playing in the Ashes. It was the Santa’s reward for two naughty brothers who decided to be good.
Sam, playing in just his second Test, has shown a mature character and provides the selectors with a welcome headache for the upcoming Tests. Much of the maturity comes from playing alongside and against distinguished personalities since a young age in the County circuit.
Along the way, he earned praise from the greats of the game, notably from Alec Stewart, who had pencilled him as a potential England player as soon as he debuted for Surrey when he boldly said, “He’s the best 17-year old cricketer I have seen”.
While there have been doubts cast over his longevity in maintaining his penetrative bowling skill set due to his short height, former Sri Lankan legend, Kumar Sangakkara feels it his action that does the talking. “ According to those in county cricket, it is Sam’s whippy action and beautiful seam position that make his deliveries rush on to the bat. His bowling speed rarely crosses 80 mph, but with such a whippy action and release, he has the ability to unsettle high-quality batsman.”
While he continues to draw adulations and comparisons with Ben Stokes, much will be expected from him in the absence of Stokes at Lord’s as he looks to build on his rise.
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