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Curran stays calm as T20 limelight beckons

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WATCH - Curran gets third wicket on debut (0:37)

18.5 TK Curran to AL Phehlukwayo, out, timber! Bowled him... (0:37)

The "Autumn Internationals", a one-off T20 at Chester-le-Street, followed by five ODIs against West Indies, get underway on Saturday to herald the finale to an English season that has stretched for longer than any other in history. But for one of the youngest players on show, the coming days look set to mark the start of something special, and potentially career-transforming.

At the age of 22, Tom Curran epitomises both the promise of youth and the opportunities presented by a world game in a state of exciting, if occasionally unnerving, flux. He has just two (albeit impressive) England T20 caps to his name, and yet a reputation forged in recent seasons with Surrey already precedes him. With lucrative stints at T20 franchises in South Africa and Australia already lined up for the winter, Curran knows that the coming days could help propel him ever further into the limelight.

"If I'm selected, I'll be ready to take my chance," Curran said during a Royal London event in Notting Hill. "Representing England is a huge honour, and often players get a go in one format and, if they go well, that's their way into other formats. So if my way into other formats is starting with T20, that's a challenge and something I'm excited about."

There was much to admire about Curran's initial stab at international cricket, his twin outings against South Africa in June, in which he produced exemplary spells at the top and tail of each innings. He claimed a wicket with his second ball in international cricket on debut at Cardiff, and finished off with two more in his final over of the series - the penultimate of South Africa's hard-hitting onslaught on the short boundaries at Taunton - where a smartly disguised slower ball and a pinpoint yorker served as memorable calling-cards from a player with plenty of confidence in his abilities.

"Two years ago, I set myself the target of bowling at the death for Surrey with Jade [Dernbach]," he said. "We pride ourselves on closing out innings, and I got satisfaction from defending games, winning at the end, keeping opposition batters to below-pars scores.

"It's one of the hardest things to do and arguably one of the most valuable assets to a bowler, being the best death bowler. I set that as a target for myself as a bowler - to practise yorkers, keeping working on slower balls, it makes it hard for the batter to line you up and clear the ropes at the end of an innings, and that makes a massive difference to the side.

"Everything now is in favour of the batters, you have to face facts that you are going to get hit some days, but if I'm clear at the top of my mark that I've done my work leading up to the game and commit to my skill 100%, more often than not it will come off and I'll be successful."

He certainly had the look, during that South Africa series, of a player who belonged at the highest level. "I was very pleased to get out there," Curran said. "Before the first T20, I was very nervous but in the second I felt a lot more at home.

"It was a big step up, but it was more about the hype, the amount of messages you get, and other people saying how big it was. Once I got out there, I just got back to my skills and what I was doing for Surrey, because I've been very pleased with the white-ball stuff this season."

And that pleasure has been picked up by T20 scouts around the world, with Curran braced for a busy winter on the road. His first stop will be Cape Town, where he has been picked up by Knight Riders for the inaugural Global T20 League, and then it's off to Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash, where he is set to follow in the footsteps of Stuart Broad - not for the first time in his career, he will surely hope.

"It's a very exciting winter, and obviously depending on what happens with [England's] white-ball squads, that'll be in the plan too," he said. "Whether people like it or not, they've got to face facts. This is where a big part of the game is going.

"Test cricket for the players is still the ultimate, but these tournaments, you can't hide from them. They are taking off, they are getting massive. I've only played two T20s and now I could be taking off to South Africa to be one of the big T20 tournaments, and then the Big Bash which is the biggest.

"It shows how quickly things can happen. It's exciting, I can't wait. When it comes to the IPL, I'll cross that bridge when it comes, but the sky's the limit. It's exciting. It's small steps now, but I'll look to dominate both leagues and see what will be."

In the more immediate future, however, there's an international series to be won and lost, one that will feature the much-anticipated return of Chris Gayle, a player with whom he has successfully crossed swords in the past, and with whom he can hope to get well acquainted this winter when they share a dressing room at Knight Riders.

"I played against him a couple of years ago when he was at Somerset," Curran recalled. "I got him out so if we can do that again, that'd be good. I had deep square out, I bowled a bumper, and luckily he top-edged it.

"I'm not one to over-analyse. At the end of the day, it's my skill against theirs, it's irrelevant who's batting. But as players, we're excited to be playing and challenging ourselves against the best in the world. It's great to see they've got their big guns back and it's a challenge I can't wait to take on."

Tom Curran was speaking on behalf of Royal London, proud sponsors of One Day cricket. Visit royallondoncricket.com to find out more.