Curran keeps English hopes up

Birmingham: India were undone by the brilliance of an unheralded Sam Curran for a second time that turned their victory bid in the opening Test from a cakewalk to a challenging climb at Edgbaston here on Friday.

Having reduced the hosts to 86/6 — lead of 99 runs — at lunch following superb spells from off-spinner R Ashwin (3/59) and veteran pacer Ishant Sharma (5/51), India then tightened their grip on the game when Jos Buttler perished in the very first over of the second session.

Promising all-rounder Curran, who knocked out the Indian top-order with a mesmerising spell on the second day, staged a stunning counter-attack that left India chasing a tricky target of 194 at a ground where England haven’t lost in a decade.

From the time southpaw Curran, playing his second Test, took guard he meant business. First he and leg-spinner Adil Rashid, drafted into the side in controversial fashion, were watchful but once they got their got their eye in they chose to chance their arms. Curran, known more for his batting exploits than his bowling skills at home, gave an exhibition of the natural talent that he possesses.

After Rashid fell to a brilliant in-swinger from Umesh Yadav that brought to an end to a 48-run eighth-wicket partnership, the 20-year-old Curran decided to take things in his own hands. Showing no fear whatsoever, he stepped down the track to loft Ashwin to a massive six over long—on before smoking a four off the very next ball.

That calculated assault forced Ashwin out of the attack. Curran then laid siege on Ishant, the other bowler who tied England up in knots. He stepped down to the pacer and carted him over extra cover for a six to bring up his half-century as the near-capacity Edbgaston stood up and applauded him.

Worries then started to shift to the Indian camp, who yet again couldn’t hold onto to their catches with Shikhar Dhawan being the culprit twice. Kohli, though, kept motivating his bowlers, even asking them to be patient instead of trying too hard.

Ishant, bowling brilliantly all day, responded to his skippers’ calls by removing Stuart Broad to complete his eighth five-wicket haul. That wicket re-ignited the Indian team and Umesh Yadav ensured the target didn’t go past 200-run mark by dismissing Curran. The youngster tried opening up the face of the bat to an out-swinger, offering wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik a simple catch.

While Curran’s innings has given England a decent chance, India were well on top of their rivals in the morning session. Ashwin, bowling non-stop from one end during the entire morning session, was top-class while first-change Ishant was menacing.

Ashwin kept bowling that probing line from around the wicket to opener Keaton Jennings, who eventually edged one to KL Rahul at slip. With men around the wicket and Ashwin on the attack, it was trying stuff and England skipper Joe Root succumbed to it. He tried flicking Ashwin despite two men in leg slips and Rahul gobbled up a difficult chance to leave England in trouble.

It became worse when Ishant dismissed Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes in the final over before lunch. But Curran refused to give up and waged a lone battle to leave the match in the balance.

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Curran keeps English hopes up

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