Sam Curran 'tried to learn from Kohli' in match-turning counterattack
A pulsating Edgbaston Test may have been lit up by a masterful batting contribution from an all-time great in Virat Kohli, and sealed on the final morning by a three-wicket burst from England's premier allrounder, Ben Stokes. And yet, the Man of the Match award went to a 20-year-old rookie in only his second Test - and the recipient, Sam Curran, found it hard to believe what he had been a part of.
"I can't take it in," Curran said during the post-match presentations. "It's all so special, it feels like I'm dreaming. I'm sure I'll sleep well tonight as I didn't sleep last night!"
In spite of his tender years, Curran grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck twice in as many days. First, he routed India's top order, claiming three wickets in eight balls en route to first-innings figures of 4 for 74.
Then - after Kohli's brilliant 149 had hauled India back into the ascendancy - he rescued England's second innings from calamity at 87 for 7 with a counterattacking 63 from 65 balls.
It was a precocious display from a player whose temperament has been well known on the county circuit since his Surrey debut as a 16-year-old. But even for a player used to taking the big stage in his stride, this was a step up in intensity.
"I tried to take it as another game but it is quite hard when the Barmy Army is chanting down there, and you've got world-class players on show, and I'm just on my second game, trying to learn my way. But it's awesome., I'm just taking it in."
He is, however, well used to gleaning advice from the senior men around him, and Curran admitted that he followed the example of two all-time greats in producing his vital maiden half-century - Kohli on the one hand, and Kumar Sangakkara, his former Surrey team-mate turned Sky Sports commentator, on the other.
"To be honest, I was trying to learn a bit from Virat in the first innings, when he batted with the tail," Curran said. "But chatted with Kumar in the hotel the other day and he also told me a few things about batting with the tail. A few came out of the middle and I was lucky enough to get a few runs."
Joe Root, England's grateful captain, was full of praise for the manner in which Curran rose to the challenge in the most intense atmosphere of his young career, but also warned that expectations should be tempered so early in his career.
"He played a brilliant game, with a huge amount of skill, and he didn't seem to feel any sort of pressure there," said Root. "He loves the occasion, it's like having two Ben Stokes, which is a great thing. But two Tests in, it's very easy to get carried away."
Stokes himself, whose three wickets on the final morning sealed England's victory, also credited Curran's impact as the decisive moment of the Test.
"I thought we are a bit behind with the lead but Sam Curran took them out of play," he said. "The way that he played at such a young age, that was the big turning point of this Test match."
The world is clearly at Curran's feet at the age of 20, with IPL contracts doubtless in the offing after impressing India's huge viewership throughout the first Test. But, he said, the chance to win a Test match for England was the ultimate fulfilment of his ambition.
"I have dreamt of this growing up," he said. "Playing Test cricket, in front of these big crowds, with all these players I've seen growing up. Stokesy, Jimmy, Broady, I'm just trying to learn a bit every day."
Asked if he'd felt any nerves in what, personally speaking, had been a nerveless display, Curran responded: "Obviously Jimmy getting that first one of [Dinesh] Karthik, that gave us a bit more confidence, but whilst Kohli was there it was obviously going to be nervous. But luckily Stokesy got an awesome spell this morning and turned the game around."