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Tom Curran blasts maiden hundred to boost Surrey’s Championship charge

Northamptonshire 339 and 209 for 5 (Procter 55, Vasconcelos 51*) lead Surrey 421 (Amla 133, Curran 115) with 127 runs

Tom Curran was beginning to feel like a cricketer who could become a specialist in limited overs more by circumstances than by design. Injuries have plagued him in recent years and he hadn’t played a championship game for Surrey since Covid-19 announced its ominous presence on the world. Hundred for lunch in his first four-day race in 41 months was quite a way to rectify that.

Since an early season game against Essex in 2019, he has played 84 T20 and 17 List A matches for seven different teams. An itinerant cricketer in high demand, but with a career in England that has recently dwindled and a championship career that felt like it belonged to another era.

Such doubts were banished, hopefully for years to come, by a remarkable return: a first-class hundred in 85 balls that became more daring and each passed, fueling the challenge of Surrey’s championship.

With every shot, he seemed to pour out his frustration over a period of extended absence, first from a lateral strain and then from a stress fracture to his back that left him Sydney Sixers mid-December, midway through the Big bash. He’s been in English bubbles but hasn’t played international cricket in over a year.

Curran came in at 244 for 6 after four overs on the third morning. Surrey was still trailing 95 and Hashim Amla had just completed a committed 100, which seemed to be the only thing standing between Northamptonshire and a useful lead in the first innings. Shortly before lunch, the Wantage Road crowd rose as one to give Curran a heartfelt standing ovation for a century of great enthusiasm that changed the complexion of the game and may have changed the destiny of the championship. Somewhere a dog barked excitedly; his championship dog days were over.

“I haven’t played a lot of championship cricket in recent years and I wanted to participate and be more positive,” said Curran. “The red ball tends to do a little more than I’ve seen in recent weeks, but there isn’t much in the wicket for the bowlers and I knew if I put some pressure on them it would be difficult.” It’s no secret that Northampton means a lot to me, so getting my first hundred here was extra special.”

Northampton is a special place for the Curran family. Tom’s father, Kevin, was a great servant of the county, and Tom is the only one of the three brothers who was not born in the city. But his hundred may have also dispelled some sadness, as this week Northants released Ben Curran, the brother who never quite made it to a Championship hundred, and may have to accept that his provincial career is over at the age of 26.

Surrey would be under a lot of pressure from Hampshire if they don’t win here. They are level with points going into the final day, and will extend that lead to eight points if they tie, 16 if they win, with two games to go. With Northamptonshire leading a precarious 127 with five wickets remaining, Surrey will likely need wickets for a second new ball 15 overs away.

The career of the two most celebrated Curran brothers once again progressed in harmony. At the end of June, Sam had also made his first Championship 100, against Kent in Kia Oval, a points-packed game in which four Surrey batters passed 100 in the same innings. Tom joined him by knocking out offspinner Rob Keogh by mid-on at a moment when he felt he could do no wrong. His last 30 runs had accelerated, including a hold-the-pose straight drive against James Sales to make it to the hundred, Amla by then a virtual spectator, and a six against Keogh who went wide from the long run. coffee house flew. -on, supplier of the best coffee on the ground.

There were times during his scathing attack when Northants didn’t attack him well, especially South African fast Lizaad Williams, the only player with international experience. Spin only made a brief appearance. He had some happy features on the top that flew over the keeper’s head, one of which took him to his half-century. But for a player whose previous first-class was only 60, he threw the ball with abandon.

Amla fell eight balls after Curran reached his century while trying to work Keogh in the leg. Keogh took three of the last four wickets to return 4 for 41, and bowled well enough to earn some late adornment of his figures. Another daring halfway shot from Curran would have beaten his father’s best score, but this time Williams had his mate and Luke Procter had an excellent running catch.

Intriguingly, Ricardo Vasconcelos and Saif Zaib are the two non-out batters who will lead the resistance of Northants on the final morning, two players who have dropped the order in search of form. Vasconcelos, 51 not out, crossed 50 for the third time in a season in which he was unexpectedly tasked with the captaincy at the start and has never recovered.

Surrey’s quicks started aggressively against the new ball, clearing both openers by tea. But Northants will especially regret losing two wickets in the final session to full tosses – Josh Cobb diverting one from leg pinner Cameron Steel to short midwicket and Procter’s half-century end when he missed a full ball from Gus Atkinson.

David Hopps writes about county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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