Returning into the playing XI after a surprising omission at Trent Bridge, England all-rounder Sam Curran put on a show with the bat in the opening day of the fourth Test at The Ageas Bowl, Southampton on Thursday (August 30).
England were reeling at 86/6, when Curran stitched a significant 81-run partnership with Moeen Ali (40) to bail his team out of trouble. After Ali’s departure, the southpaw forged a valuable 63-run stand for the ninth wicket with Stuart Broad and in the process completed his second half-century of the series.
Curran was eventually dismissed by Ashwin but not before he scored a glorious 78 and took England’s total to 246.
Addressing the press conference after the end of first day’s play in Southampton, Curran said he wasn’t proving a point to anyone on his Test return. Despite getting the ‘Player of the Match’ award in England’s thrilling 31-run victory in the first Test at Edgbaston, Curran was snubbed from the playing XI in Nottingham.
“I was disappointed, but at the same time took it as a positive. I wasn’t proving a point at all – I was just playing the way I do, naturally and freely and with no fear,” Curran told reporters.
Curran did not reference Stokes, who was immediately drafted into the team for the third Test after being cleared of affray at Bristol Crown Court. Instead, he reasoned he could hardly make it to the playing XI ahead of Chris Woakes – who had just made a match-winning century in the second Test at Lord’s.
“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,” Curran asserted.
“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,” he added.
Opting to bat first, the English top order once again failed to make a mark. While Jasprit Bumrah claimed the wickets of Keaton Jennings (0) and Jonny Bairstow (6); Ishant Sharma and Hardik Pandya removed Joe Root (4) and Alastair Cook (17) respectively to reduce the home team to 57/4 at Lunch.
In the second session, Mohammad Shami dented England by removing Jos Buttler (21) early. Although Ben Stokes showed resilience with a gritty 23-run knock, he was eventually dismissed by a beautiful in-swinging delivery from Shami.
Defending the failure of England’s top order, Curran said: “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.”
“There were some very good balls in there, to a lot of the top order – they got some very good ones. But we worry (only) about the end result. We managed to get 246 – which from 86 for six looks a decent score now, with how much the wicket has done and how much it has swung. That’s a massive positive for us going into tomorrow with a bit of momentum,” he concluded.