Tom Curran revealed that he had checked his foot position with the umpire the ball before his maiden Test wicket was ruled out because of a no-ball.
Curran, on Test debut, celebrated wildly when he thought he had dismissed David Warner caught at mid-on for 99. But no sooner had Warner started trudging off the field than TV replays showed that Curran had over-stepped and a no-ball was called. Warner returned to complete his century and Curran finished the day wicketless.
That left Curran as the third England bowler to miss out on a maiden Test wicket because of a no-ball in the past four years. The incident invited reminders of the Adelaide Test four years ago when Ben Stokes was denied the wicket of Brad Haddin when replays showed he had overstepped. Mark Wood also saw his celebrations cut short when he transgressed against New Zealand in 2015.
But Curran could not be accused of carelessness – he had checked his foot position with the umpire the previous delivery only to over-calculate in his ambition to get as close to the line as possible after hearing the advice.
“It’s been a mixed day,” Curran said. “It was great to make my debut, so it’s a very proud day. I asked the umpire how my foot was the ball before that and he said it was ‘half-and-half’ so I moved a little bit forward. I am gutted. It was horrible. The worst feeling I’ve had. But looking at the positives, I get to get my first wicket twice.”
Celebrating Warner’s reprieve became the most jovial moment of an attritional day for the packed MCG crowd. Warner took the chance to deride Curran at the end of the over before Jonny Bairstow and Jimmy Anderson chimed in on behalf of Curran.
It was the second time in 12 months that Warner had been dismissed off a no-ball on his way to a century at the MCG. In the 2016 Boxing Day Test against Pakistan, Warner was bowled by Wahab Riaz on 81 before replays showed the left-armer had crossed the line.
Anderson suggested “adrenalin” may have responsible for Curran’s overstepping. Anderson claimed his 100th Test wicket against Australia and drew level with Courtney Walsh with 519 Test dismissals on the first day. Now only four men – and one seam bowler in Glenn McGrath – have taken more.
“I was gutted for Tom,” Anderson said. “It was hard to watch, really. We saw the elation in his face and then watched it drain from his face a few seconds later when the big screen came up. It’s one of things you learn the hard way, on Boxing Day at the MCG.”
Anderson claimed England do try to ensure they don’t bowl no-balls in the nets – though that hasn’t always been the case on this tour – and said umpires tend to warn bowlers if they are getting close to going over the line.
“The umpires do work hard to let you know when you’re pushing the line,” he said. “The third umpires are in their ear telling them when you’re over. If it gets called, then you’re more likely to definitely come back. It’s difficult, you want to be behind the line as much as possible, but with the adrenalin, and Tom wanting to impress in his first Test match, he just put a bit of extra effort.
“In the nets we have an umpire standing there more often than not, telling us where we’re standing on the crease. In game situations it’s difficult for a bowler. There’s adrenalin, you’re trying to bowl quicker, and you can push it. But no-balls happen in cricket, they have done for 100-odd years, and now he has experienced something like that he’ll really try hard to stay behind the line.”
Anderson admitted England “didn’t start very well” but felt they “dragged it back really well”. He had particular encouragement for Stuart Broad who he conceded had not bowled well in Perth.
“Being brutally honest, I think Stuart’s really disappointed with the way he bowled in the last game,” Anderson said. “Being a senior player, you want to help the team in big series. Unfortunately for Broady, it’s not gone his way this trip so far. But having seen him practise this week, he still has the hunger. He’s worked on his run-up and his action to try and get back to his best. I thought he bowled brilliantly.
“I don’t think we started very well. We didn’t adjust to the conditions of the pitch quick enough and when you bowl to someone like Warner on pitches like that, he’s going to hurt you. We regrouped at lunch and dragged it back really well. But there’s just no pace in the pitch.
“It’s hard but I think days like today, in a slightly strange way, I get satisfaction out of knowing I’ve put in a good shift. I’ve put in everything today, I couldn’t have thought about how I could get wickets any more. I enjoy putting that stint in knowing that you’ve done a good day’s work.”