Sam Curran on track for bowling return, says Surrey head coach Gareth Batty
Allrounder will miss New Zealand Tests, while Chris Woakes also in doubt for first Test
Surrey head coach Gareth Batty has confirmed that Sam Curran's return to full bowling fitness is on track despite the England allrounder's limited workload.
Curran has sent down just 10 competitive overs since his Surrey return three weeks ago, following six months out with a stress fracture of the back.
Those overs all came on the opening day of Surrey's LV= Insurance County Championship match against Somerset at the Kia Oval on April 21, meaning that Curran did not bowl in the subsequent matches Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire.
Curran has already been ruled out for England's upcoming three-Test series against New Zealand, which begins on June 2, while Chris Woakes is also an injury doubt for that first Test at Lord's after struggling with injury - particularly to his shoulder and knee - since the end of an arduous winter campaign.
Batty has confirmed that Curran is still fully engaged in his recovery programme, which is being managed and monitored by the county in direct consultation with England's medical and fitness staff.
"Sam is centrally-contracted by the ECB so England are ultimately responsible for the detail of his return to bowling fitness work," Batty said. "But despite not bowling in the last couple of matches he is doing his overs behind closed doors and that continues to go well.
"What we all have to remember is that Sam is still a young player, and sometimes it's hard to think he's only 23. And the real positive for him at the moment is that he has been able to concentrate more on his batting and, during these early-season Championship matches, to approach them mainly as a top-six batter.
"He's already shown, in his first three games of the season, just what a good player he is by the manner in which he has scored his runs. Sam is also the sort of cricketer who always wants to get better, be that with bat or ball, and I think he's still improving all the time."
Curran has made scores of 80 and 33 against Somerset, 64 against Gloucestershire and 73 against Northants. All of his four Championship innings this season have been skilful and attacking knocks showcasing his shot-making ability and underlining a widely-held opinion in English cricket circles that he will eventually develop into a top-order batter who bowls relatively little.
With three half-centuries and a top score of 78 from his 24 Tests, moreover, Curran has already highlighted his run-scoring abilities at the highest level, and it remains one of the curiosities of the modern game that after 118 first-class innings - and another 121 in List A and T20 cricket - Curran has yet to reach three figures. That first hundred cannot be too far away.
Surrey, meanwhile, sit proudly atop Division One after the first five rounds of the Championship campaign and Batty - who took over as head coach from Vikram Solanki during the winter - could not be more pleased with a start of three wins and two high-scoring draws.
Victories against Hampshire and Somerset were gained too despite the loss to injury in those games of, respectively, Kemar Roach and James Taylor, while Ben Foakes, Jamie Smith and Ollie Pope have all been forced to miss a match through injury or illness.
Surrey's strength in depth, though, has already allowed them to rotate quick bowlers Jamie Overton and Reece Topley from certain fixtures while the latest addition to their seam battery, Dan Worrall, has impressed everyone at The Kia Oval since arriving at the club in mid-April.
Worrall, a 30-year-old Australian with three one-day international caps, has previous county experience from 2018 and 2021 with Gloucestershire and, as a British passport holder, is now a home-registered player.
After taking five wickets in last week's crushing innings win against Northamptonshire, Worrall said: "This is a great club to be a part of and everyone has been so welcoming to me and my family. I've signed for three years but let's hope I can be here longer than that!
"I am excited to be here and I know what my role is in what is a terrific bowling attack. My time at Gloucestershire gave me valuable experience of English conditions and what I most learned there was the need to be adaptable on different pitches.
"Sometimes it swings more and sometimes it seams more, so you have to adapt your bowling to whatever is in front of you."