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Chris Jordan's home-town heroics set up a win, but England would be well-served not congratulating themselves too hard on his emergence
George Dobell in Barbados
March 13, 2014
Dobell: Jordan made all the difference
Perhaps it was fitting that, 33 years to the day since Roland Butcher became the first black man to represent England in Test cricket, another Barbadian should play such a significant role in an England victory on the same ground.
"Our boy, their bat", the local paper proclaimed when Butcher played. And they could have used the same headline here as Chris Jordan, on the outfield where he played as a boy and on the pitch where, in part, he learned his trade, produced an outrageous demonstration of clean hitting to take England's total out of the reach of West Indies.
Jordan thrashed three sixes from successive Dwayne Bravo deliveries and four in a final over of the England innings that yielded 26 runs. In a match decided by a margin of just five runs, it made all the difference.
Playing in front of his parents and sister, Jordan also claimed three wickets with his pace bowling and took an outstanding running catch on the midwicket boundary to account for the dangerous Bravo. Unsurprisingly, he was named Man of the Match and pronounced it a "very special occasion."
It all meant that England won their first T20 in six attempts and depart for Bangladesh with confidence at least a little higher than it might have been.
There were other areas of improvement. England at last utilised the Powerplay overs effectively - only twice have they scored more than the 64 for 0 they managed in the first six overs here - and put together an opening stand of 98 in 10.5 overs that should have been the platform for a match-defining total. They fielded significantly better than West Indies and, in James Tredwell and Ravi Bopara, again demonstrated bowlers who could flourish in Bangladesh.
But England would be deluding themselves if they concluded that they have settled upon a formula that will succeed in Bangladesh. This was a victory against a West Indies side resting some key players - most notably Chris Gayle and Samuel Badree - and one that owed rather too much to fortune for comfort.
England will be fortunate to come up against a bowler as raw as Sheldon Cottrell in the World T20. Cottrell, playing instead of Ravi Ramaul to provide him some exposure to this level of cricket ahead of Bangladesh, provided England with enough loose bowling to provide just the kick-start they required. That Michael Lumb, in particular, was able to sustain his bright start against more demanding bowlers, including Sunil Narine, was encouraging but there was no comparison to opening against Badree.
And, that it took Jordan's last-over heroics to ensure they won this game, underlines how badly England lost their way after the opening partnership. After reaching 96 without loss after 10 overs, England scored just 34 in the next seven and lost five wickets in the process.
They experimented with their third No. 3 in the three games and cannot be encouraged by the form of Ben Stokes, who missed a good slower ball by six inches and has now scored just 18 runs from his last seven international innings, or Eoin Morgan, who has not reached 20 in his four international innings on this tour. Had Dwayne Bravo not delivered an uncharacteristically poor final over of their innings, they would surely have squandered their bright start.
Even in the final over of the match, they enjoyed some fortune. Jade Dernbach, in a performance that typifies his career, produced a mixture of the wonderful and woeful in his four-over spell. It culminated in a wide from what should have been the last ball of the match to give West Indies a sniff of victory and then what would have been another wide had Darren Sammy not made contact from the last delivery. To suggest Dernbach held his nerve would be to judge from results not the process, though. In truth, he got away with it.
Most of all, though, it must be a concern that it took a Bajan playing in Barbados to rescue them from defeat. It must be a concern that, for all the money ploughed into academies, counties, youth development and schools in England that the national team are still as likely to turn to players brought up abroad to mark deficiencies in their own system.
To some extent this is to be celebrated. It reflects the mobile, multicultural society that the UK has developed into and it suggests that the days when race or religion were any impediment to progress are long gone, in cricket at least. England would be foolish and wrong not to utilise the benefits of its history and the attractions of county cricket to aspiring young cricketers.
But is worth reflecting on the reason why so many of England's finest players of recent years - from Kevin Pietersen to Jonathan Trott - have spent part of their youth in cultures which seem to produce more natural talent. The reliance upon such players has become disproportionate.
Might it be the same reason that England appear to produce fewer quality spin bowlers and fewer fast bowlers who are able to sustain the strains of a career at the top level? That all the coaches and academies in England are part of the problem. That the talent is coached out of many English players. That the desire for uniformity which dominated in England for so long - thankfully there are signs that it is changing - have actually held back young cricketers during those key childhood years when they should be learning the fundamentals.
That is not to say that Jordan and co. do not owe a great deal to county cricket. Even in the last year, since he was released by Surrey and moved to Sussex, he has come on in leaps and bounds. But it is telling that his career-best bowling performance - 7 for 43 - came in Bridgetown, admittedly on a different ground; the Three Ws Oval - almost exactly a year ago. He was playing for Barbados at the time. It is telling, too, that this match represented the first occasion most of his family had enjoyed the opportunity to see him play international cricket. Barbados remains the location of the family home.
So England may take the victory and they may take some confidence from that victory. But it is Barbados who can take pride in the fact that their tiny island - it is 20 miles long and a smile wide, the locals like to tell you - has produced yet another fine cricketer. England would be well-served not congratulating themselves too hard on his emergence.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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