Chris Jordan is emerging as England’s new specialist limited-overs hitter, when only sixes will do.
The all-rounder has made it look a simple task of late to clear the ropes off international bowlers – but that is only because he works every day at perfecting his methods.
Jordan added peerless white-ball expert Lasith Malinga to the list of those he has dispatched, as his 13-ball barrage of boundaries brought him a one-day international career-best 38 not out and gave England the winning barrier they needed against Sri Lanka at The Oval on Thursday.
For good measure, all-rounder Jordan then added his best bowling figures to date in ODI cricket too with 3-25 as England won impressively by 81 runs to go 1-0 up at the start of the Royal London series. The teams meet again tomorrow in Durham.
Jordan’s pace and skill with the ball were as compelling as his hitting, especially for those with an eye on what is likely to be an imminent Test debut for him this summer.
But on a day when England collectively did most things right, Jordan’s powerhouse striking at No 8 stood out. Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara, both world-class exponents in the ‘death’ overs, could not stop him smashing the ball into the stands over the long Oval boundaries.
It was especially rewarding for the former Surrey man to excel on another of his old home grounds – having hit Dwayne Bravo for four sixes in an over in a Twenty20 match in his native Barbados two months ago.
Jordan has now taken his six count to eight from just 120 balls faced in limited-overs cricket for England – as many already as Joe Root and only one fewer than Alastair Cook, after their combined 119 matches.
If that sounds like an unfair comparison with two top-order batsmen whose primary job is very different, Jordan is already beginning to operate close to the same six-hitting strike rate as Jos Buttler.
Yet contrary to appearances, as he stands deep in the crease to achieve elevation in whichever direction, Jordan finds his speciality far from easy.
“It’s not something I’ve always felt confident of doing,” he said.
“It’s an area of my game that I identified I needed to improve. I’m working every day at it. You have to. Range-hitting is something I practise quite often.”
To seal the deal against Malinga is particularly impressive.
“We saw the other night in the Twenty20 that he finished off the game brilliantly,” said Jordan. “He is obviously paid the big bucks in the IPL and Twenty20 tournaments all over the world.
“I was just glad I was able to stay as still as possible and get a good bat on it.”
Twenty-five-year-old Jordan may be about to discover his timing is perfect, having broken into the England team at the start of a much-discussed new era under new coach Peter Moores.
“I try to enjoy myself and have fun on the pitch every time I go out there – because you never know if it could be your last game,” he said. “I try to leave everything on the pitch every time I play.
“I’m a very ambitious player and do want bigger and better things.
“There are few new faces in the side and guys who are trying to make a statement. I hope I can be part of that.”
The future appeared anything but rosy, however, only last year when Jordan left Surrey for Sussex after a back injury had previously ruled him out of the 2010 season and his promising career was in danger of stalling.
He has restated his case emphatically, and is grateful to Sussex for their help.
“The family environment down there has been a real key part of my development,” he added.
“They made me feel really welcome and at home. I’ve really enjoyed the move so far.
“I consider myself to be very mentally strong – and even though Surrey released me, I was still in a good place.
“I felt as though my game was still improving, I was doing well in the nets – and I was getting my body nice and strong.”
Others deserved honourable mention in an especially promising display from England in the opening one-day international – including new No 3 Gary Ballance (64) Ian Bell (50) with half-centuries, and three wickets too for James Tredwell.
But Cook was in no doubt about who had made the most difference.
“It was a fantastic performance,” he said, of Jordan’s contribution.
“To come in and whack it like he did – he hit a really clean ball, against a very good ‘death’ bowler [Lasith Malinga] – was a credit.
“That extra 30 odd we got in the last two overs gave us that momentum swing we really needed.
“Those wickets he got, it looked very uncomfortable batting.”
He added: “Everyone contributed to the performance, and that’s important.”