Sam Curran admits it feels “surreal” to be sharing tips with James Anderson and keeping Stuart Broad on the sidelines – having grown up watching the pair on television.
Curran was handed new-ball duties in England’s first Test victory over Sri Lanka in Galle, partnering Anderson as Broad was dropped for just the second time in a decade.
The 20-year-old’s superior batting, and his unique offering as a left-armer, ultimately proved a greater pull than Broad’s 433 Test wickets and saw him part the most prolific seam partnership in Test history, at least temporarily.
Curran, who was only nine years old when Anderson and Broad played the first of their 111 Tests together, said: “It’s been very surreal these past few months playing with these guys. I’m so used to being on the sofa at home and watching them operate on the big screen.
“They have played so much cricket together. I’m learning so much from them. Even though Broady didn’t play, he was always coming out and giving me a few tips, and Jimmy has played so much in the sub-continent.
“It is great to have these guys helping me especially with my bowling in terms of what areas to bowl, reverse swing, all these type of things. I’m trying to learn day by day and thankfully it is going OK.”
‘OK’ does not quite do justice to Curran’s early experiences on the big stage. As well as his man-of-the-series honours against India in the summer, he has now tasted victory in all six of his Test appearances.
He has some way to go before reaching the top of the tree – Tim Bresnan holds the England record with 13 on the bounce – but his canny combination of left-arm swing bowling and punchy batting in the lower middle order has proved well suited to highest level.
“It has been mentioned, but there’s a long way to go,” he said of Bresnan’s mark.
“It’s a good start but I don’t want to look too far ahead… I don’t want to say too much because I might jinx it.”
As it stands, Curran can not even be fully certain he will play in the second Test in Kandy on Wednesday.
The old adage of never changing a winning side could be binned, with Jonny Bairstow likely to be fit again after ankle trouble and Broad hoping for a recall on a Pallekele pitch which is expected to be more suited to his style than Galle.
Curran only bowled 11 overs last week due to the dominance of spin but his first-innings 48 was vital in setting up the game for England.
Looking on as captain Joe Root, head coach Trevor Bayliss and national selector Ed Smith spoke to the coaching staff at the team hotel, Curran added: “There’s a selection meeting going on over there. There’s going to be a few sleepless nights because someone is going to be disappointed on Wednesday morning, but that’s a great place to be.”
Curran’s Surrey team-mate Ollie Pope is due to leave the senior squad to join up with the England Lions in the United Arab Emirates, with management deciding he is better served taking part in the forthcoming three-format series against Pakistan A.
“Ollie needs some game time before the West Indies Test tour early next year and will get more out of playing competitively for the Lions rather than spending the next three weeks in Sri Lanka on the sidelines,” said Bayliss.
The entire touring party marked Armistice Day, 100 years on from the end of World War One, with Root delivering a short speech and a two-minute silence being observed on the lawn of the team hotel.
Meanwhile, in Galle, several hundred England fans gathered on the Fort to take part in a remembrance service which included a rendition of the Last Post by Barmy Army trumpeter Billy Cooper.