Curran's show the shape of Surrey's future
Surrey 74 for 2 trail Gloucestershire 233 (Roderick 71, Fuller 48, Smith 47*, T Curran 6-61) by 159 runs
On the day that Chris Tremlett announced his retirement his county, Surrey, were taking on Gloucestershire as they push for a long awaited promotion from Division Two. As a man with 459 first-class wickets at an average of 28 his struggles with injury and form in recent seasons have hampered Surrey's ambitions to make it back to the top flight in this competition.
Tremlett has played three first-class matches this season getting through just 68 overs, with that in mind it is perhaps not surprising that his latest injury setback has led to him calling it a day. Despite his absence Surrey are well placed in the promotion spots in the table and are completely in charge of this match in Bristol. The reason that Tremlett has not been missed has been the emergence of the Curran brothers.
Tom Curran, the 20-year-old, made his first-class debut last season collecting a very respectable 19 wickets at 27 during the seven matches that he played. This year he has been ever present in the Surrey team in the Championship and has now gone past 50 wickets for the season. His 6 for 61 means he now has 18 first-class wickets against Gloucestershire at 10. Excellent returns against his father's former county.
In the opening exchanges of this match it was younger brother Sam that was the most impressive. He is just a matter of weeks past his 17th birthday and he already has 11 first-class wickets at an average of 21. He is shorter than his brother, although there is every chance he has some growing to do, and his action is a lot less upright. Bowling left-arm over, Sam gets the ball to skid on and seam.
This is exactly how he claimed the wicket of Will Tavare with his first ball - the seventh of the match. The delivery was full and ducked into the left hander trapping him in for a straightforward lbw decision.
When the younger Curran bowled Chris Dent as the batsman left a ball alone he had claimed both openers in a six-over spell. From that point onwards it was the Tom Curran show. He found excellent bounce and carry while swinging the ball consistently, in fact for a period in the middle of the Gloucestershire innings his problem was he was swinging the ball too much and therefore not troubling the outside edge.
Of the Gloucestershire top order only Gareth Roderick made a contribution of note. His 100-ball 71 was an excellent counter-attacking effort, but when he fell in the middle of a cluster of three wickets just after the lunch break it looked as if Gloucestershire would be shot out for something pretty paltry.
James Fuller had other ideas as his team recovered from 111 for 7. His hugely entertaining 48 was full of vim and vigour as he struck seven fours and the only six of the innings. He had an interesting technique to the quick men, charging forward as the ball is delivered. There were a number of occasions where Jade Dernbach saw him coming and a bouncer flew past his nose.
While the Currans shone the other bowlers lacked real penetration. James Burke struggled to keep it tight and while Dernbach kept the scoring down but never really troubled the batsmen. Surrey captain Gareth Batty gave himself a few overs but on a green-tinged pitch there was not a lot in the surface for him to exploit, although he did claim the last wicket to bring the Gloucestershire innings to a close. The space inside the salary cap that is freed up by Tremlett's departure should be reinvested in another seamer with Derbyshire's Mark Footitt a likely target.
The eighth Gloucestershire wicket cost 57 runs and the ninth 56 and on both occasions it was Tom Curran that broke the stand. His six wickets take his tally this season to 54 wickets at 25. If Surrey can make it to Division One for next season it will be fascinating to see how well he does against stronger opposition.
What those late-order runs showed is that there is little to cause alarm in this pitch once the new ball has been seen off, and that is just what the Surrey managed to do as they made it to 74 for 2 in the 22 overs they batted before the close. That both openers fell in the closing stages of the day makes the game seem closer than it should have been, but Surrey have a lot of batting to come.
If Gloucestershire want to get back into this game they need to find a performance similar to Tom Curran's. With Craig Miles not risked for this game with the hope that he will recover from his back injury in time for the Royal London Cup quarter-final against Hampshire on Wednesday it is difficult to see where that inspired showing will come from although the regularity with which Fuller beat the edge will allow Gloucestershire to at least hope.
Peter Miller is a cricket writer and podcaster. @TheCricketGeek