As Sam Curran walked into the press conference at the end of the first day’s play, a band was entertaining the remaining fans. It would, perhaps, be harsh to say the band’s name – Davy Jones’ Locker – summed up where England’s batting is right now but, if it’s not quite at the bottom of the ocean, there are certainly batsmen who currently look all at sea in the middle.
Not Curran, though. With all the fearlessness of youth unburdened by failure, he came to the crease with England in deja-vu trouble and with every glorious shot made the selectors decision to leave him out of the side at Trent Bridge look ridiculous in hindsight, even though at the time there were reasonable arguments for doing so.
As his innings unfurled the sharing of stats on social media snowballed like tongue-in-cheek Chuck Norris Facts: Sam Curran is the third highest run-scorer in this series after Virat Kohli and Jonny Bairstow. Sam Curran has gone to both his half-centuries with a six. Sam Curran is the only English batsman to be part of three fifty-plus partnerships in this series. Sam Curran took a five-fer today – err – sorry. That one was Tom. But Sam Curran can do a wheelie on a unicycle.
But although Curran’s innings was full of defiance in the face of an in-form and confident India attack, making the most of an obligingly swinging Dukes ball, there was no bitterness in his demeanour when he was asked about being dropped so soon after his player of the match performance at Edgbaston, rather an acceptance that he had been “unlucky”.
“I was disappointed, but at the same time took it as a positive,” said Curran. “You can’t really leave someone out someone who’s got a hundred…it’s just a great squad at the minute, and everyone is fighting for their places.
“It’s international sport – you try to do the best you can for your side. I wasn’t proving a point at all – I was just playing the way I do, naturally and freely and with no fear. I’m not going to change the way I play – it’s just who I am.
“I was unlucky obviously last week to miss out. But I love being around the squad. There are some great names in the team, and I’m learning so much.”
If Curran is learning he is also showing the way. Jasprit Bumrah noted that Curran played “the waiting game” and took his chances as the ball softened and batting became slightly easier, although the ball continued to cause trouble in the air and off the pitch. While India’s bowlers should take much of the credit for how they exploited the conditions it was hard to ignore the continuing rolling of facts: Curran has faced more balls in this series that Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings despite missing a Test; England’s top six scored 71, Curran made 78.
“There were some very good balls in there, to a lot of the top order…they got some very good ones,” said Curran. “But we worry [only] about the end result. We managed to get 246, which from 86 for 6 looks a decent score now, with how much the wicket has done and how much it has swung.
“It was pretty tough. It swung massively throughout the day, I found. Even when I was in, probably in my 30s, it was still 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.”
Such have been Curran’s contributions with the bat that it’s almost easy to forget he also has eight wickets in this series at an average of 23.50. And although he laughed off the idea of taking the new ball – “Jimmy and Broad are class at what they do, so I think I’m going to have to wait my turn for a couple of years” – his all-round abilities and current form will make it very difficult for selectors to leave him out of the team for the final Test.
After all, don’t you know Sam Curran can kill two stones with one bird?