Curran spares Lions blushes
Surrey quick Tom Curran and Somerset spinner Jack Leach combined to spark a spectacular UAE collapse at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Saturday.
The England Lions took a 2-0 lead in their three-match one-day series with a 100 run win after bowling their hosts out for just 90.
Curran took five for 16 after he made a vital 40 with the bat, and Leach ended with three for seven from 6.2 overs as the UAE lost their last nine wickets for just 27 runs inside 14 overs.
The home team looked set to square the series when they were 63 for one after the Lions had struggled to 190 all out with 15 balls of their innings remaining.
But after Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone broke the UAE’s second-wicket stand, as Ghulam Shabber pulled him to Keaton Jennings at mid-wicket, Leach and his Somerset team-mate Craig Overton piled on the pressure.
Leach had Shaiman Anwar caught at the third attempt by Joe Clarke, and Overton then produced an athletic piece of fielding to run out Mohammed Qasim from short fine leg.
Then Curran, who had taken the first wicket in a lively four-over opening spell, returned for the 23rd over, and proved irresistible in a burst of four for nine in four overs.
The 21-year-old Curran who is relishing his return to Dubai with the Lions after starring in their T20 victory over Pakistan A last December said: “You have some days in your career that stand out and I’ll remember this, taking five wickets for the England Lions.
“They had a bit of a partnership but we stayed calm, and when I came back for a second spell I had a chat with the skipper [Jennings] and we said let’s go for it.
“We’d seen in our innings that things can happen quickly. I’m so pleased for Jack Leach as well, because he bowled beautifully – and he’s such a good bloke.”
Leach snapped up the key wicket of Rohan Mustafa, the Emirates opening batsman who was the seventh man out when he was caught off a top-edged sweep for 45.
The Lions made five changes from the team who won the first match of the series on Thursday, with Leach, James Fuller, Nick Gubbins and Tom Helm making their debuts.
Jennings lost his second toss as captain, and after losing Gubbins to a top-edged pull in the fourth over the captain fell for 21 in the 11th, nicking one through to the UAE wicketkeeper, the Lions were 48 for two.
Hampshire youngster Tom Alsop making his second Lions appearance, responded positively by hitting seven boundaries in an innings of 44 from 46 balls.
But wickets continued to fall steadily, with Clarke, Livingstone and Ben Foakes all out cheaply to leave the Lions tottering at 90 for six.
Then Fuller joined Curran in a sensible seventh-wicket stand of 53 in 13 overs that was to prove crucial later on. After Fuller went for 35 from 49 balls, Overton joined Curran to hit 23 from 35 balls including the only two sixes of the innings.
Curran said of his batting: “I want to make the most of the time out here to work really hard on my batting.
“I’ve been given the responsibility of batting at number seven and I really enjoyed it. We had to rebuild after losing a few wickets and with the help of Fulls and Craig we managed to get up to a competitive total. I was just disappointed to get out when I was ready to pull the trigger.”
The Lions will name a new captain for the last match of the series on Monday, when Jennings is due to fly to India to join the senior England squad ahead of the fourth Test in Mumbai.
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