MELBOURNE (AFP): In player of the tournament Sam Curran, and his bowling at the ‘death’, England found the final piece of the jigsaw to turn Jos Buttler’s side into Twenty20 world champions.
The quietly spoken Curran bookended England’s triumphant tournament in Australia with two of the finest spells seen in a T20 World Cup.
He took 5-10 in 3.4 overs to bowl out Afghanistan for 112 in the opening Super 12 match and then 3-12 from four overs in the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, including the key wickets of Mohammad Rizwan and Shan Masood, to keep Pakistan down to 137-8.
The latter saw him awarded player of the match in the final, a year after he had been a spectator as England’s Adil Rashid, Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes were smashed for 57 runs in the last three overs of a T20 World Cup semi-final to hand New Zealand victory.
And in 2016, he had been a teenager watching on TV when Ben Stokes failed to shackle Carlos Brathwaite, who bludgeoned four successive sixes in the final over in Kolkata to give West Indies their second T20 World Cup triumph.
Now his laser-accurate left-arm swing, together with a deceptively quick shorter ball, cutters and clever changes of pace, has been the answer to England’s bowling prayers.
“To be honest, I am a little bit lost for words, it has been a great tournament,” Curran said as he picked up his awards after taking 13 wickets overall.
“First time for me in a World Cup and we have won it. I wanted to be adaptable coming into the tournament.
“I haven’t bowled much at the death before and that is one area I want to keep improving.”
– Cricketing family –
Curran comes from a family of cricketers.
His late father Kevin was a Zimbabwean international allrounder in the 1980s who played for Northampton and Gloucestershire in English county cricket. He went on to coach Zimbabwe.
His grandfather Kevin P. Curran played for Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was formerly known, seven times in the 1940s and 1950s.
Older brothers Tom, 27, and Ben, 26, are also talented cricketers, with Tom having represented England also in all three formats and Ben making his first-class debut for Northamptonshire in 2018.
Sadly, father Kevin never lived to see his sons follow in his international footsteps as he collapsed and died while exercising in 2012. He was aged just 53.
Now Sam, who is also a powerful lower-order batter with a Test highest score of 78 and an ODI best of 95 not out, wants to emulate his father by becoming a genuine allrounder, like his teammate and hero Stokes.
“I want to improve my batting though it is tough to get to bat in this line-up,” Curran smiled.
“I don’t think I should be getting this (player of the match award). I think the way Ben Stokes played there, to get a fifty in a final — and he does it so many times for us — he should get this.
“He is someone I look up to and always turns up when the team needs him, people question him but there’s no questioning him, he’s the man.”
– ‘Top-notch’ –
Pakistan batsman Masood threatened to take his team to a much bigger total on Sunday until he fell to Curran, for 38.
“I think Sam Curran’s been top-notch for a while,” Masood said as he paid tribute to England’s newest star.
“He’s just been brilliant. I think he’s been very clever. He watches the batter till late.
“He just doesn’t go to one particular, predictable length. He can bowl a good yorker. He’s got a decent bumper. He bowls his cutters and then even his length ball is a heavy ball.
“When you see his stature, you want to take him on, but he is that class bowler and I think in this tournament he has been a class apart.”