ESPNcricinfo Awards 2022 T20I bowling winner: Sam Curran aces the powerplay
3 for 12 vs Pakistan, T20 World Cup final, Melbourne
Throughout the World Cup last year, Curran was steadily ticking boxes. Powerplay bowler - check. Death bowler - check. Wicket-taker - check. Then the left-armer brought it all together in the biggest match of his career.
Having missed the 2021 World Cup with a stress fracture of the back, Curran rebuilt himself as a more durable and more reliable version of an allrounder who seemed to be capable of everything but never all at the same time. Until November 13 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
By then he had already been sounded out as England's most important player in an already stellar line-up and, as a result, the biggest threat to Pakistan's hopes of raising their second T20 World Cup trophy.
Bowling the third and fifth overs, he somehow found eight dots with the fielding restrictions in play, and frustrated Mohammad Rizwan into a drag-on, robbing Pakistan of their talisman from the semi-final against New Zealand.
His return in the 17th over was as much by design as necessity. The death was his domain, and Pakistan were alive again: steadily emerging from those early ruins thanks to a partnership of 36 between Shan Masood and Shadab Khan. Three balls in, Masood dragged a cutter to the deep. Curran had dismissed Pakistan's two leading run-scorers in the tournament. Mohammed Nawaz followed in similar fashion in the 19th over. That no boundaries were hit off the 24-year-old summed it up. He was unplayable.
The game would have panned out differently if Rizwan had stuck around, given his knack of speeding up after tough starts, and average at the time of 58 against England. Curran only bowled three deliveries to Rizwan, but the way the batter snatched at the wicket ball, which swung in at the last moment from outside off stump spoke of the chokehold England's attack had administered. It also hinted at a belief doing the rounds that, for all Curran's acclaim during the tournament, he could be hit out of the attack easily. Not so.
3 The position Curran's spell holds among the best bowling performances in men's T20I World Cup finals.
13 Number of wickets Curran took in the tournament, the most by an Englishman in one edition of the T20 World Cup.
What they said
"These grounds in Australia are probably suited to the way I wanted to bowl and make guys hit me towards the bigger boundaries. I've loved it because we've won the tournament so maybe I'll keep coming back here more."
- Sam Curran
"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."
- Shan Masood
The closest contenders
3 for 25 vs Pakistan, T20 World Cup, Perth
A stunning World Cup upset instigated by one of the most inspiring short-form cricketers on the circuit. You knew Zimbabwe's hopes in the World Cup would largely rest on Raza, but few would have figured he would produce such magic with the ball. The value of his three wickets across five balls came in the final result - victory by just one run.
5 for 4 vs Afghanistan, Asia Cup, Dubai
Swing and seam both ways, stumps clattered, and a knuckleball to finish. This was Bhuvneshwar at his most majestic, hoodwinking hard-hitting batters with typically subtle majesty. Virat Kohli's long overdue international century in the first innings stole headlines; Bhuvneshwar made the decisive impact in the second.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo