Curran a child among men delivers win
Surrey 121 for 4 (Amla 39) beat Middlesex 117 for 7 (Malan 48*, Curran 2-15) by six wickets
"Pretty ordinary" was how Dan Christian described his team's batting effort. Stronger words would have been justified - it was post watershed - as Middlesex floundered to a fifth successive defeat. Undone by a smarter, hungrier and savvier Surrey, the game was decided at the toss.
Having been under covers for three days, the home side knew the pitch would seam and provide enough encouragement for Jade Dernbach, Kevin O'Brien and Azhar Mahmood to roll their fingers over and around the ball. Naturally, Surrey bowled first upon winning the toss and Middlesex's punchy batsmen were too short of form to wait for cutting deliveries to come onto the bat and too apprehensive to manufacture options square of the wicket.
It was only really Joe Denly and Toby Roland-Jones, both with far-reaching levers, who were able to hit through the line of the ball. Dawid Malan carried his bat for a noble 48, but the sight of him, normally such an attractive driver of the ball, trying to shoe-horn balls into the leg side was a fitting nod to a forlorn batting effort.
Still, Surrey's bowlers deserve credit for a near perfect bowling performance. Their acquisition of the target was efficient, if unspectacular, but they had afforded themselves the luxury of a gentle stroll to victory. Those in the crowd expecting fireworks had to settle for one six from Hashim Amla and a smattering of botched beer snakes. With one run needed to win, one spectator broke loose from the OCS stand and made a beeline for the pitch. He tripped within sight of the boundary foam, before being escorted off and missing Mahmood, playing in his 200th T20 match, hit down the ground to seal Surrey's second victory of the T20 Blast campaign.
Among the histrionics, it was the performance of Tom Curran that stood out. "He can do anything," Gary Wilson effused, his voice quickening as his head bobbed from side to side, seemingly unable to conceal his disbelief at the skill of the 19 year-old. Bowling at a good pace, he returned figures of 2 for 15 from his four overs and, impressively, 16 dot balls. Who knows how good this kid can get.
Graham Ford has shown a good deal of faith in Curran, who has been operating in Surrey's four-day XI as a side-balancing allrounder. Even before Ford's endorsement, those at Surrey, particularly academy director Gareth Townsend, had no qualms about his about his ability to handle pressure.
Townsend recalls with great fondness just how quickly an even fresher faced Curran assimilated into the academy side during their tour of Cape Town in 2012, having impressed former Surrey captain Ian Greig while playing schools cricket. Surrounded by talented yet sceptical peers, who would have cast suspicious glares at this coiffed haired unknown who was suddenly in their space off the back of extra-curricular work, he quickly got to grips with the vibe.
He was invited to Surrey that summer and ended up playing 2nd XI cricket, returning figures of 5 for 21 against Kent in his second outing. The decision to sign him was a no-brainer, but the tragic loss of his father, Kevin, in October 2012, rocked him. Curran had just made the decision to move to England permanently and attend Wellington School; the tragedy grossly accentuating just how far away he was from home and family.
To their great credit, Wellington reached out and offered his two younger brothers, studying in South Africa and Zimbabwe, the opportunity to move to England and attend the school so that Tom could have family around him. It was a gesture greatly appreciated by Surrey and the Curran family.
As a cricketer, he is still excitingly malleable. His action suggests he will add on pace through natural development; a child among men in a huddle featuring Kevin O'Brien and Gary Wilson, up close he has the build of a fleet-footed scrum half.
Speaking after collecting his man of the match award he was candid, brushing off the comparison with Dale Steyn with a hint of nerves, as he looked to take the compliment without cracking too much of a smile. Those that remained were preoccupied with drunken chants and the odd good-natured ruckus, cheering wildly as Curran's name was announced again as he walked off, magnum of champagne in hand, back to the dressing room. He will no doubt be subject to more accolades and ovations in years to come.