England vs India: Sam Curran rescues England after dreadful start to Fourth Test

SAM CURRAN returned from his one-match exile and salvaged the wreckage created by England’s dismal batting display.

The Surrey all-rounder, aged just 20, made 78 after arriving with England’s first innings in tatters at 86-6.

 Sam Curran top-scored for England with 78, his highest Test knock

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Sam Curran top-scored for England with 78, his highest Test knock
 England collapsed to 86-6 before Curran came to the crease to help rescue the innings

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England collapsed to 86-6 before Curran came to the crease to help rescue the innings

It was a magnificent and mature performance from a young cricketer who has done nothing other than impress during his brief international career.

And, do not forget, Curran was dumped for the previous Test at Trent Bridge to accommodate the returning Ben Stokes just days after he was cleared of affray.

There will be no dropping Curran now. He was Player of the Match in England’s win in the First Test and has made another mighty contribution.

By the close of day one of the Fourth Test at Southampton, India were 19-0 in reply to England’s 246 all out.

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No matter how good Curran’s retrieval mission, though, it should not mask the inadequacies of England’s top order.

Keaton Jennings was made to look a mug. Alastair Cook and Jos Buttler played careless shots while Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes succumbed to fine bowling.

Curran is a sparky, confident cricketer with no mental baggage.

He said: “I understood the reasons behind being left out at Trent Bridge. Stokesy was coming back and you couldn’t leave out Chris Woakes after he’d made a century in the game before.

“I was disappointed but took it as a positive. This is a great squad and I love being part of it.

 Keaton Jennings was out lbw for a duck as his place in the side continues to be endangered

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Keaton Jennings was out lbw for a duck as his place in the side continues to be endangered
 Moeen Ali hit a much-needed 40 as he built a partnership with Curran

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Moeen Ali hit a much-needed 40 as he built a partnership with Curran

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“I wasn’t trying to prove a point today. I just wanted to play freely and with no fear — like I try to do for Surrey.”

After Root won the toss, Jennings failed again, miserably so for a fourth-ball duck. The left-hander offered no shot to a booming inswinger from Jasprit Bumrah and was helpless as the ball cannoned into his pads.

Sure, it was a cracking delivery but Jennings’ response betrayed a batsman short of confidence, form and desperately telling himself to leave the ball as much as possible.

Root is in the worst form of his Test career, struggling for rhythm and fluency. He should be batting at No 4, not No 3.

He would have been out lbw on review if Bumrah had not over-stepped but then, almost immediately, Ishant Sharma nailed the captain leg before for just four.

 Curran brought up his half-century with a six at the Ageas Bowl

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Curran brought up his half-century with a six at the Ageas Bowl

Bairstow found the ball swinging in all directions and it was not long before he nicked off. Cook tamely guided the ball into Virat Kohli’s hands at third slip.

Root and head coach Trevor Bayliss have been highlighting the 169-run stand between Stokes and Buttler at Trent Bridge as the template for Test match batting, even though it came in a crushing defeat.

But they could not produce a repeat.

Wicketkeeper Buttler drove irresponsibility at a swinging, widish ball and edged to third slip. Stokes was leg before.

 Joe Root survived an early lbw reprieve thanks to a no-ball but was soon trapped in front again

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Joe Root survived an early lbw reprieve thanks to a no-ball but was soon trapped in front again

England were in huge trouble but a seventh-wicket stand of 81 between Moeen Ali and Curran partially repaired the damage.

Moeen top-edged a Bumrah bouncer for six and then hoisted Ravi Ashwin straight into the stand. He was enjoying his first Test of the summer.

But he then mishit an attempted slog-sweep off Ashwin and Bumrah held a running catch.

Adil Rashid was adjudged lbw even though the ball was missing leg stump but Root and Stokes had already burned England’s two reviews.

Curran was not finished. As he ran out of partners, he went on the attack, taking England to a total that might prove useful. A total of 34 extras — including 23 byes — helped.

SAM CURRAN returned from his one-match exile and salvaged the wreckage created by England’s dismal batting display.