Worcester: Surrey team-mates Sam Curran and Ollie Pope shared the individual honours with Dawid Malan and Chris Woakes as England Lions drove home their advantage on the third day against India ‘A’ in Worcester. At stumps, India ‘A’ were tottering at 11/3 with the visitors needing 410 runs to win the game and seven wickets in the bag.
Curran earned figures of five for 43 as the Indians slumped from 189 for four to 197 all out in their first innings, with Woakes collecting two wickets to confirm his comeback after knee and quad injuries is on track.
Then Malan and Pope made half centuries – a second of the match for Malan, and Pope on his Lions debut - as the Lions made 194 for five in their second innings before declaring late in the day.
That decision paid off as Jamie Porter took two wickets and Curran his sixth of the match to leave the tourists tottering on 11 for three – although the Lions still have work to do to complete victory on the last day, with three of the four members of this team who have been included in India’s Test squad still to be dismissed.
"I'm delighted for Ollie," said Curran. "It’s his first Lions game and to get a debut 50, you couldn’t ask for much more. I’m glad to see the Surrey boys doing well, with Burnsy batting nicely today as well. It all bodes well - we’ve got a big game in the Championship at Notts next week."
Curran, returning to red ball cricket after a spell with England's short format team, said: "I was definitely a bit rusty in my first couple of spells. But this morning the overheads were pretty good, the ball started swinging round, and I got a few lbws.
"They’ve got a very good side, some class batters. For us to get Murali Vijay tonight is big, he’s a class player, and also Prithvi Shaw who played very well in the first innings. But they’ve still got Rahane to come, and Karun Nair who’s scored 300 in a Test against England. So there’s still work to do."
It was Woakes who made the first breakthrough of the day after a deceptively quiet start, bowling Rishabh Pant for 58 after a fifth-wicket stand of 96 with Ajinkya Rahane when the wicketkeeper erred in judgement by playing no shot.
That triggered a collapse as the Indians lost their last six wickets for eight runs inside five overs – four of them falling to Curran, who exploited cloudy conditions in a superb spell from the New Road end.
The Surrey all-rounder had Rahane caught behind down the leg-side with his first ball of the day, then pinned Shahbaz Nadeem lbw with his second.
Mohammed Siraj left Curran’s hat-trick ball but Woakes struck again three overs later, bowling Jayant Yadav – the off-spinner who scored a Test century against England in India two winters ago.
Then Curran wrapped up the innings by winning two more lbw shouts in the space of three balls, to complete the sixth five-wicket haul of his first-class career.
India hit back when the Lions began their second innings, with Alastair Cook falling cheaply after his first-innings century, and Nick Gubbins also dismissed in a lively new-ball spell by Siraj.
Malan joined captain Rory Burns at 25 for two and the left-handers calmed things down in adding 57 until Burns edged Siraj to Pant in the last over before tea.
Malan, who had made 74 in the first innings, completed another half century before he was stumped off Nadeem’s left-arm spin, and Woakes then joined Pope to add a quick 52 for the fifth-wicket.
Woakes drove a catch to deep cover in the over after Pope had reached a 71-ball half century, and Burns declared to set the Indians a tricky mini-session in the fading light – during which Porter bowled Murali Vijay in the first over, then Curran had Prithvi Shaw edging to Malan at second slip in the second, before Porter won an lbw decision against Mayank Agarwal in the last over of the day.
Woakes said: "It felt good, I’m really pleased with how I’ve come through the first three days. It’s nice to come back after a bit of a lay-off, and play in a competitive game like this against good players. The rhythm was there, there’s no ill effects, and it’s just a matter of getting more overs under my belt now.
"As the game’s gone on I certainly feel like I’m getting close to full tilt. We’ve got a big Championship game next week for Warwickshire against Middlesex at Lord’s starting on Sunday, and that will be my next focus."
Brief score: England Lions: 423, 194/5 dec; India ‘A’: 197 allout, 11/3
(With inputs from ECB website)