He took a wicket in his first over of each innings and ended with match figures of eight for 120. Batting No11, he then hit some exquisite boundaries.
In the following weeks, the wickets — opening the bowling with his brother Tom — and runs flowed. By September, he was being excused from school to help Surrey to promotion.
That summer set in train one of a series of questions about Curran, some of which we really are no closer to answering. More of a batsman or a bowler? He has never made a century, so surely cannot be a batsman. But he is 5ft 9in on a good day and looks gentle of pace, so surely cannot be a full-time bowler.
At home, how is it possible to pick him in England’s best XI when he is not their best all-rounder, not among their best five batsman and not among their best four bowlers? Put simply, it seems impossible to leave him out when he is on the winning side in every game he plays at home? He chipped away with big contributions away from home this winter, too.
And, in an era of increased specialisation, is he more of a red-ball or white-ball cricketer? Red, according to his haul of England caps; white, if you ask two IPL franchises willing to pay top dollar for his services. But, time and again, he has proved that attempts to pigeon-hole him are simply a mug’s game: he just always finds a way to get into the game.
The same was true yesterday, when he was recalled after almost a month without cricket. He replaced Jofra Archer but Ben Stokes, too, as Joe Root acknowledged that the extra batting he brings helps balance the side. He was charged up, with his left-arm angle providing variety to a modestly-paced attack missing both Archer and Mark Wood. It is not an attack to unleash at Brisbane’s Gabba next year, but England are not playing Pakistan there.
Curran did what he so often does: he dismissed a set batsman, Abid Ali for 60, to spark a collapse of three for 18 that made the opening day emphatically England’s.
With today’s start delayed due to rain which was due to dog the day, Pakistan had time to reflect on the curious position they find themselves in. Despite having won both tosses and almost every session this series — including the first yesterday, thanks to England’s butter fingers — they are hanging on by their fingernails.
Curran’s dismissal of Abid was a large reason for this. The ball was nicely angled across, bounced a little and had the element of surprise following three ordinary inswingers.
In South Africa, five of the 10 wickets he took were of batsman with more than 45 to their name. Going further back, he has dismissed Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson for 46 and 51 respectively.
He keeps coming at batsmen and has the tricks to thrive with an older ball. That makes him a handy replacement for Stokes the bowler, who is England’s specialist partnership-breaker. Clearly, he has a way to go before he can stand in for Stokes the batsman, however enterprising and elegant he can be to watch.
Curran still has much to work on — and plenty to work out. But even with faces as fresh as Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley about, he is still — somehow, five years after he first baffled us — the youngest player in the side. At home, he averages more than 30 with the bat and less than 23 with the ball. He is good now and will only get better.