There’s nothing particularly spectacular about English cricketer Sam Curran.
The left-arm bowler from Northampton doesn’t boast the express pace or intimidating height of colleagues Mark Wood and Chris Jordan. At five-foot-nine, his stock delivery hovers at around 130km/h, rarely swinging the ball in white-ball cricket.
Yet the unassuming 24-year-old has steered England to T20 World Cup glory with a career-defining performance in Sunday evening’s final against Pakistan at the MCG.
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Curran claimed 3/12 from four economical overs, including 15 dot balls, in front of 80,462 spectators to be named not only Player of the Match, but Player of the Tournament.
Incredibly, despite bowling all his overs during the Powerplay and at the death, Curran did not concede a single boundary in the final, the only player from either side to do so.
“Sam Curran has stepped up and been an absolute revelation,” England captain Jos Buttler told reporters in the post-match presentation.
“He‘s a brilliant cricketer, he loves those crunch moments, and he’s a deserved player of the tournament.
“He‘s a top performer. He’s only going to get better and better though as he’s still a young man. But he’s got a lot of experience already on his shoulders and he just wants the ball.
“I‘m just so pleased for him; his performances and he’s got everything he deserves.”
Curran’s strategy in the final was simple, but incredibly effective. The crafty seamer exploited the spicy MCG pitch by repeatedly hitting a good length, changing up his delivery angle and sparingly throwing in wide yorkers.
The relentlessly accurate paceman never overpitched, forcing Pakistan’s batters to attack the venue’s famously long square boundaries.
And the plan worked impeccably – Shan Masood and Mohammad Nawaz were both caught at deep mid-wicket while hunting for quick runs at the death, sparking a horror collapse of 4/10.
Earlier, he snared the prized scalp of Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan, flashing at a wide delivery that was dragged back onto the stumps.
“Sam Curran’s been top-notch for a while,” Masood told reporters after the match.
“He‘s an in-demand player in this format, especially. He’s an all-format player. He’s just been brilliant. I think he’s been very clever.
“He just doesn’t go to one particular, predictable length. 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.”
Curran finished the T20 World Cup as the tournament’s second-highest wicket-taker with 13 scalps at 11.38, sitting behind Sri Lankan spinner Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva, who played two more matches than the Englishman.
He started the campaign with a record-breaking 5/10 against Afghanistan in Perth, becoming the first English cricketer to take a five-wicket haul in men’s T20Is.
Curran’s death bowling became crucial to England’s success – he took 9/70 from 64 deliveries in death overs during the T20 World Cup, while his economy rate of 6.52 was comfortably the lowest of England’s pace bowlers.
“(I’m) a little bit lost for words,“ Curran said during the post-match presentation.
“Coming into this tournament. I wanted it to be adaptable. I obviously haven‘t bowled at the death as much in my career. And that’s an area I always want to keep working at.”
Curran’s success would leave Australian selectors pondering whether they missed a trick by not selecting Hobart Hurricanes bowler Nathan Ellis for the tournament.
Australian stalwarts Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, albeit extraordinary talents, were bitterly underwhelming throughout the T20 World Cup, collectively taking six wickets in seven matches.
While Starc and Cummins are currently plying their trade in all three formats, Ellis is a proven T20 specialist with similar attributes to Curran.
The 28-year-old Tasmanian is a crafty seamer with subtle variations and an excellent slower ball, making him an effective weapon at the death.
Since making his international debut last year, Ellis has taken 15 wickets in five T20 internationals at an economy rate of 6.40. Only one cricketer has taken more scalps in their opening five matches in men’s T20Is — Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis.
He currently has the lowest T20I bowling average in history among Test-playing nations of those who have taken at least 15 wickets.