Sam Curran has been drafted into England’s Test squad after Ben Stokes sustained a hamstring strain. Stokes was only fit enough to bat in the nets on Thursday morning, with a scan due later in the day*.
Curran, the 19-year-old Surrey left-arm swing bowler, travelled to Leeds on Wednesday night in order to train with the squad on Thursday. His brother, Tom, represented England in the final two Tests of the Ashes.
Stokes sustained the strain during fielding practice on Wednesday. He is expected to take a late fitness test on Friday, before the start of the second Test against Pakistan, and it remains possible he could play as a specialist batsman.
If he plays, Curran will be the seventh youngest man – at 19 years and 363 days – to debut for England in Test cricket. He will also be the third man aged 20 or under to represent England in their last five Tests. Mason Crane made his Test debut in Sydney while Dom Bess made his at Lord’s. Both are 20. He was previously called into England’s T20 squad during the tri-series involving Australia and New Zealand earlier this year but did not play.
Despite his relative youth, Curran has long been tipped for the future. He made his Championship debut aged just 17 – and took a five-for; the youngest man to do so in Championship history – and claimed a 10-wicket haul in his last Championship match, against Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago.
In that match he dismissed the England captain, Joe Root, with a lovely inswinger in the first innings and the Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara in both innings.
While not especially quick, his action – and ability to swing the ball – has drawn comparisons with Wasim Akram and he also has some pedigree with the bat. He is the son of former Zimbabwe allrounder, the late Kevin Curran.
As well as being preferred to the likes of Craig Overton and Jake Ball, who represented England over the winter, Curran also appears to have leap-frogged his older brother. While Tom Curran’s commitment was impressive in Australia, his lack of pace was an issue on the flat wickets encountered in Melbourne and Sydney.
Having just returned from the IPL, Tom has also not played a first-class game this season though whether than influenced the selectors is currently unclear.
Stokes injury might also mean good news for Chris Woakes. He was 12th man at Lord’s but could come back into the side in place of either Stokes or, perhaps, Dom Bess if Stokes is cleared to play as a batsman only. Joe Root and Dawid Malan could be asked to provide the spin bowling. Keaton Jennings also bowls serviceable medium-pace.
*1100 BST, 31 May – Story updated with news of Stokes fitness