After Ben Stokes was brought into the team, the England management had the unenviable task of asking a player to vacate the spot.
Drop Ollie Pope? England need some stability in the middle order as there is pressure on Jonny Bairstow with Jos Buttler not in the best of form. How about Adil Rashid? He did not bowl, bat, take a catch or affect a run out at Lord’s. Well, you do need one spinner if the pitch assists. Can’t drop Chris Woakes as he hit a match-winning ton and picked up four wickets in the second Test. Keaton Jennings is not in form but at least he looks decent as an opener. How about Buttler? Well, he has earned his recall and did well against Pakistan, plus he is a senior player so can’t do that.
Therefore, England decided to drop Sam Curran. The left-arm seamer has been a revelation with the ball and bat in both Tests. His match-winning fifty in the first Test, 40 in the second and six wickets across two games have helped the hosts maintain the upper hand. Curran only took one wicket in the second Test but he beat the bat every other delivery and could have easily had five in the match.
Moreover, he is the only left-arm swing bowler on either side and that is a huge advantage in a series that has a bit of sameness to it when it comes to seam bowling attacks.
And England have dropped Sam Curran for Ben Stokes? Pope, Rashid, Buttler - you had many options. Curran's left arm angle showed value in first Test, not to forget his batting. Harsh call imo.— Nikhil 🏏 (@CricCrazyNIKS) August 17, 2018
Joe Root said asking Curran to sit out was one of the toughest decisions he has made as a skipper. It’s a decision that might not cost the hosts as India are low on confidence and someone like James Anderson himself is enough to rattle Virat Kohli‘s men in seamer-friendly conditions.
But looking at the long-term, Curran’s classic left-arm swing bowling and immense composure at the crease, along with his dogged batting are qualities that England need to develop and nurture.
All that could have easily ensured Curran’s continued selection. If Root had decided to drop Pope, Rashid or even Jennings, it could have been justified by numbers. But England have made up their mind and now it’s up to Curran to wait for his next chance.
England are on top at the moment. But if India somehow manage to put up a fight, England might just start to miss Curran’s angle with the ball and composure with the bat.
England captain Joe Root has announced Ben Stokes will return for the third Test after being cleared of affray at Bristol Crown Court.
Stokes, who was acquitted just three days ago after a case which began almost 11 months earlier following a late-night brawl in the Clifton area of Bristol, will replace Sam Curran against India at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
Root described the switch as “probably one of the most difficult selections” he has been part of as Test captain, but added Stokes is confident he is mentally ready to play again.
Stokes missed the Lord’s victory which last week took England 2-0 up with three to play because of a clash with his court date.
Curran is one of several England might have chosen to step aside, despite his man-of-the-match performance in a thrilling 31-run victory for the hosts in the first Test at Edgbaston.
“Sam misses out – Ben comes into the side,” Root said at the start of his pre-match press conference in Nottingham.
“It’s probably one of the most difficult selections I’ve had to make as captain.”
The decision was made only after he personally consulted with Stokes, to be confident the match would not come too soon for the 27-year-old former vice-captain, and all management staff kept a close eye on his preparation over the past two days.
“He’s just desperate to get back playing cricket, make that his main focus,” said Root.
“I sat him down yesterday, just me and him, and asked him where he was at. He told me he’s desperate to get out there, wants to put in performances and concentrate on his cricket now.
“He felt he was ready to play. We obviously assessed his fitness as well, over the course of the two days.”
England head coach Trevor Bayliss will decide over the next two days whether Ben Stokes is ready to make his Test return.
The influential all-rounder was cleared of affray on Tuesday after a week-long case at Bristol Crown Court, relating to a late-night fight in the city following last September’s one-day international against the West Indies.
Stokes was instantly recalled to the England squad ahead of the third Test against India, which starts at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
Bayliss, speaking at a press conference in Nottingham on Thursday, said: “It’s good to have him back around the squad.
“I’m happy for Ben and glad it’s all over. I haven’t actually spoken to him since…but I’ve got the next two days to assess where he’s at.”
Bayliss continued: “It’s a good position to be in. Whether he plays or not we’ve got some guys in good form in the team.
“It’s a difficult decision whoever misses out, whether it’s Ben or anyone else. It’s a position we’ve been trying to get into for a while. We have some good young players coming in.”
On Stokes’ recall to the squad, the Australian continued: “It was a collective decision. Myself, the management, the captain, Andy Flower, the board – everyone had a bit of a say and basically thought for his (Stokes’) own well-being it was good to get him back around the cricket.
“There’s nothing automatic about selections, we’ll see how he is mentally as well as physically.
He’s not played for a couple of weeks. It’s a difficult decision to make.”
Stokes’ acquittal ended legal proceedings into the Bristol incident but he and team-mate Alex Hales will be the subject of a Cricket Discipline Commission investigation.
And Bayliss added: “Since the incident we’ve done a lot of work with team culture with the two captains – and that’s ongoing. Changes with curfews and that type of thing.
“In the past all the other teams I’ve been involved with and this one, when I arrived, would treat teams like adults and they (players) will respond like it.
“For a team on the road 11 months out of 12, we had an incident we’d rather have not happened to a degree and we’ve thought we needed to do something different.
“There were a couple of small indiscretions in Australia after that incident and I think the players have finally woken up. They’ve learned their lesson and the way they go about their profession has been top class.”