The Twenty20 series against West Indies is a special one for Chris Jordan. The England seamer is back in Barbados where he was born and raised and surrounded by family and old friends. “The first thing I do when I get back here is go home, and as soon as I get there my mum or my dad will have something cooked up,” he says. “The second thing I do is go to the beach. I’ve got a particular beach, I really enjoy the vibe there, and I go straight there and take a dip. That’s literally the first things I do as soon as I land.”
But as Jordan revels in his return to this glorious, sun-kissed Caribbean island serious concerns are being raised about whether the 33-year-old still looks at home in England’s T20 side.
His place in it has been a given for more than six years. When Jordan was rested for Wednesday’s defeat in Bridgetown it was just the third match he had missed since November 2015. But in recent months his death bowling has been regularly seized upon by critics and opposition batters – his final overs in the World Cup semi-final and in Sunday’s second T20 cost 23 and changed the momentum of the game.
“The reality of it is that as a team we probably haven’t excelled in that facet of the game for a little while,” Jordan says, “but in both those games it could have gone slightly different. If you look at it in black and white both overs went for big runs, but chances were created and at various points it could have been different. What I would say is I just try to keep my mindset as calm as possible in those situations and live with the results.”
Jordan suggests the only thing that has changed in his death bowling over his career is the number of variations he has to choose from. “I wouldn’t say I’m bowling a hell of a lot differently,” he says. “When I started I didn’t have a lot of skills that I now have, in terms of adding a couple of slow balls to my arsenal, so it was quite simple. As things evolve you develop skills, ways of working out what could be the best thing to do. The fact of the matter is we and I have not been good enough in that phase, but when it has gone well I’ve been at the forefront, when it hasn’t gone well I’ve also been at the forefront, and changing that dynamic going forward I want to be at the forefront of that as well.”
It is not just England’s death bowling that has been less reliable of late. After two games of this series Jordan was revelling in the unlikely position of being the leading run-scorer on either side (a status he lost after sitting out Wednesday’s run-fest), but he was only in a position to demonstrate his batting prowess because of failures further up the order. He has faced more than 10 balls only four times in the last five years: once in 2018, once in 2019, and then in the first two games of this series. “I’ve been feeling in good nick with the bat for quite some time,” he says, “but the fact I haven’t had the chance to show it is actually a testament to our batting line-up and the consistency they’ve shown over such a long period.”
Though Covid regulations in Barbados are more strenuous than in England, the player bubble has been relatively relaxed, with players allowed to eat out, do some appropriately distanced socialising and go for early-morning dips at favourite beaches. “When the pandemic first started, I feel like the whole world thought it might last two weeks,” Jordan says. “Then we had that initial time off, and everyone was itching to get back into cricket, however it looked. If it had to be a bubble, it had to be a bubble.
“No one anticipated that this dynamic would have gone on for so long. That rhythm of playing the game and then doing something to take yourself away from the game, that goes away a bit with bubbles. And that’s been the main challenge through all of this, because all of a sudden you’re spending 24 hours with the game, and when it’s not going so well that’s where the real challenge lies, because you start to overthink things. I think everyone would say it hasn’t been as enjoyable, because it has been unnatural.”
Jordan’s year, at least until October’s T20 World Cup, will be a tale of two Ovals, starting at Kensington and continuing at Kennington, where he returns as Surrey’s T20 captain after eight years at Sussex promising a gentle style of leadership. “I’m quite a relaxed person,” he says. “I’ll try to lead from the front – I definitely don’t want to be asking people to do things that I’m not doing myself.”
Happily the two Ovals also happen to be his favourite grounds. “Definitely top two,” he says. “Kensington holds a special place for me. It’s where I watched my first cricket game, my first international. My dad used to take me along to watch the West Indies play. To know that I’m now playing in a similar fixture, having watched and aspired to be at that level one day, is quite special.”