By clinching 4/57 from 19 overs, he ensured Quinton de Kock’s counterattacking 95 did not swell South Africa’s total too far beyond the 277-9 the Proteas mustered.
His display with the ball, which saw him move it both ways through the air and off the seam, was doubly important for skipper Joe Root given the ailments his side has endured since landing on these shores. Both Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad hadn’t bowled a ball in the middle before today as a result of an illness that has struck the side and meant Ben Stokes could not be used as a fourth seamer.
In the scorching African heat, Curran shouldered the burden.
‘It’s been a tough week for us as a squad, we’’re pretty pleased the way we stuck together as a group and sticking for the guys who are ill’ Curran said. ‘Overall it was a pretty even day. We would have obviously have liked to have bowled them out but to have them nine down was a pretty good effort.’
Curran the cricketer is hard to pin down. Superficially he is neither a gun batter or bowler but seems to have that special ingredient that allows him to break games open.
Every time South Africa looked like developing a sizeable partnership, Curran’s golden arm struck.
He removed Aiden Markram for 20 just as the opener was shifting through the gears. He angled one across debutant Rassie van der Dussen just as the nerves were settling. He enticed Dwaine Pretorius to prod at one away from his body when t he all-rounder was climbing on 33. Most importantly, he removed de Kock five short of a century with a ball that moved just enough to find the edge.
He almost had a first five-wicket haul when an appeal for lbw against Keshav Maharaj was successful, but the batter reviewed immediately and replays showed an obvious inside edge.
‘I thought that was so out,’ Curran said. ‘When he went for the review I was so bleak. Hopefully tomorrow will be the day. But if not, the main thing is hopefully we are in a good position and I can say I contributed a first innings lead when we bat.’
Daniel Gallan in Centurion
Photo: Gallo Images