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'I owe Chris Jordan an apology'

Chris Jordan (left) has been in fine form for England during the ICC World T20
Chris Jordan (left) has been in fine form for England during the ICC World T20
©REUTERS / Action Images
 

I owe Chris Jordan an apology.

During England’s ODI series against South Africa earlier this year, I wrote after each of the first three one-day games that Jordan should be dropped. In the end, he actually was dropped - not because of my Cricket World pieces I should think - after the third, not that it did England much good.

Chris Woakes had played in the one-day games against Pakistan in the UAE before Christmas and it seemed to me that he was a better bet than Jordan for that series in South Africa as well as the World T20 in India.

It’s not that Jordan is a bad cricketer. Nor is it that I think Woakes is necessarily a better player but he was the man in possession. It’s not that Jordan has done anything particularly wrong either but nor had he done anything to stand out.

England players should stand out. Up until this World T20 he had not done that. Now, it is a different matter.

Jordan hails from Barbados but moved to England on a scholarship to Dulwich College. He started his county career at Surrey but for one reason or another things didn’t work out and he ended up at Sussex in 2012.

From there he received England recognition, making his one-day debut for England against Australia in 2013 and his Test debut against India the year after.

Jordan has done fine in an England shirt but no more than that. In his eight Tests, he has taken 21 wickets at 35. Not awful but not spectacular. He concedes more than six runs an over in ODIs and more than eight in T20Is. He has England’s most expensive one-day figures ever with one for 97 off nine overs against New Zealand last year.

He has also been unlucky. I watched Jordan bowl in a Test in Barbados and he bowled with spirit and energy. He had a catch dropped in the second innings as the West Indies soared to victory and had another two edges drop short of the cordon. No other bowler looked nearly as threatening on a slow but dead pitch.

If he had taken two or three wickets, he may still be in England’s Test team.

Why have I doubted him? Jordan is quick but not quite quick enough to trouble the very best batsmen. He bowls consistently but not consistently enough that he doesn’t offer up a four-ball every over. He can bat but he hasn’t yet registered a half-century for England.

Where he is unrivalled is in the field. He is a terrific fielder, perhaps the best slipper I have seen, and equally as strong close in or in the outfield. Jordan also seems like a good team man, someone who will do the hard yards and not complain.

The fielding and the effort don’t make a fine international cricketer though. There are plenty pf players with good attitudes around. It is skill and class that count. And I doubted Jordan had what was required.

He is starting to prove me wrong. His performances for England in this World T20 have been first rate. He conceded just 24 runs from his four overs in the semi-final and has been entrusted to bowl at the death. Jordan has rewarded captain Eoin Morgan with match-winning spells and proved himself the best yorker bowler in the competition.

The moment I knew I was wrong about Jordan was in the last group game against Sri Lanka, who needed 22 off the last two overs. Jordan was entrusted to bowl the 19th.

This was the key over. Sri Lanka’s Angelo Matthews was set and was sure to attack as no team wants to leave too many to get in the last over.

Jordan conceded five off the first two balls. Here we go, I thought.

In the next four, Jordan took two wickets and gave away just two more runs. That left Sri Lanka with 15 to get from the last over. Too many.

It wasn’t the calibre of players he got out in that over that stood out nor that he did it with searing pace or stunning guile. Jordan delivered when it mattered because he relished the challenge and nailed his yorkers. Simple. But so important.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by Jordan in that pressure situation. He has done it before, notably in a T20I Super Over in that UAE series against Pakistan, when I was shouting at the TV that he was the wrong man for the job. Three runs from six balls later and England won easily.

He obviously relishes the pressure and England obviously trust him in that role.

Morgan and coach Trevor Bayliss deserve great credit for sticking by Jordan. He could easily have been left out of the World T20 squad for Woakes or for Stuart Broad, especially after his poor ODI series in South Africa, but they have seen something in him they like. They have been proved correct.

At 27, the time now feels right for him to make his move. Whether Jordan goes on to have a stellar career for England in all formats remains to be seen.  At Test level doubts remain over his ability to trouble the best players on flat pitches but he should be set for a long run in England’s one-day sides after his performances in this World T20.

Against the country of his birth on Sunday, Jordan will be a key bowler for England. It is just the sort of pressure situation that he has thrived on so far in this competition. The West Indies will have to find a way to combat his yorkers at the death if they are to win and Morgan will once again trust him to do his thing.

So, Chris, I take it back. I’m glad you’ve been picked for this competition. I trust you to do your job and if England win it, you will be a major reason why. I’m sorry for ever doubting you.

© Cricket World 2016