Jordan Cox's unbeaten 238 catapulted him into the spotlight this week, as he racked up an unbroken 423-run stand with Jack Leaning in Kent's thrashing of Sussex in the Bob Willis Trophy, becoming the first man born in the 21st century to make a first-class hundred in England in the process. He was all set to star at the Under-19 World Cup at the start of the year before England's surprise early exit cost him that opportunity. During that tournament, Sreshth Shah caught up with him.
You started at Kent at age 10. What pushed you into cricket that young?
My brother - he was a big influence on me playing cricket. My parents played semi-professional tennis so I've always had that gene, but my brother played for Kent from age 10 until he was 16 or 17, so I was always there whenever he wanted throw downs. That's what got me into playing cricket. When my brother used to bowl at me, I was two or three years below, so obviously he was very quick for me. And I wanted to play with him quite a lot, so they would put me in the same team with him quite often. So in that sense, I've played in teams two years above my age category. I believe that it's helped me.
Is there anyone you would compare yourself to as a player?
I've changed quite a lot over the years. I used to be more of an attacking player - I mean I still am, but I'm not as reckless as I used to be. Sam Billings was the person I've been looking up to since I was 10, but now playing with him is quite funny. I'd like to think I'm similar to how he plays - he's quite attacking. Within the Kent environment, I'm probably close enough to him.
He had a tough year after dislocating his collarbone, but scoring three hundreds in a row in the Championship was quite impressive. I talk to him quite a lot, and try to take a lot of information from him on how he goes about his business. I've tried to take bits from him and put it in my own; he's so open, which is really good.
What boxes did you tick on debut?
I obviously wanted to play for Kent, that was my aspiration. I was playing in a Kent 2nds game at the time, a T20, and I was told, "Jordan, you're opening for us against Hampshire, so see you tonight?" I drove up, and was pretty nervous on the ride up. I ended up playing because Zak Crawley was called up to the England Lions team, so I was happy being the next best batsman. I went out there, told myself 'just have fun', and if things don't go too well, that's unfortunate, but I went out there all guns blazing. I got 27, dismissed by a good ball. I was happy I started well.
What's been your favourite batting performance so far?
My knock against Bangladesh Under-19s at Beckenham maybe. I was playing a T20 Blast game against Hampshire the day before and I was driving back home thinking, "I don't have anything on tomorrow", so I called [head coach] Jon Lewis and asked him: "do you mind if I play tomorrow?" And he said: "let me call you in a bit." And he called back an hour later and he said: "Jordan, pack your bags. Your hotel is booked."
So I drove to the hotel at 10.30pm. But I was nervous going into the game: my highest score for the Under-19s was about 30, so I was thinking I really need to score some runs, but then I scored 122 not out that day. That was my best international performance so far.
What kind of questions would you ask a top cricketer?
I'll give you an example. I was supposed to play against Yorkshire away when Stevo [Darren Stevens] got 240-odd. But I got dropped for Faf du Plessis, which I was upset about that game, because he came into the side for just that one game - but I guess that's fair enough since he is the captain of South Africa.
So I asked him: "if you're in a bad run of form, what do you do? What are your two main things?" He said to me: "There are two things I make sure are right: my backlift and my head." Anything else he doesn't really bother about. It was something I hadn't explored before. Talking to him about that, things became much more clear.
Who is the most challenging bowler you've faced?
Probably Jofra Archer, at Hove in a T20 game. He bumped me and it was ridiculously quick. I ended up three strips behind me. I didn't really enjoy it, but ended up getting my highest Blast score there. Tymal Mills and Rashid Khan were in that attack too, and Chris Jordan, so it was quite a challenging game all around. Their pace, and their change-ups were difficult. The first ball Mills bowled, thank god, was a full toss, so I cut it for four. It was only supposed to go for one so I could get off strike...
The England team in the last five years has played very different white-ball cricket. Are you suited to it?
Yes, I think so. I used to be really attacking. Now I've calmed it down just a bit, but I'm still hitting it at a strike rate of 100-120 most of the time. I feel like my strike rate will be up there or close enough to how England play. [In the Under-19s] it's normally an aggressive top three, too. That doesn't mean slogging every ball at all, don't get me wrong: just putting away the bad balls, defending the good ones, trying to get off strike, trying to strike at 100 if you can. But if there's some good balls and you need to block them, fair enough. Obviously the ethos of the senior team is coming down to our junior sides which is good because if we do break into the first team, we know what it's all about.
But do you like red-ball cricket? It doesn't turn you off?
I used to be like 'white-ball cricket is gonna be my life', but I've realised that if you want to make it as a cricketer in England, then red-ball cricket has to be the start for me. If I can play red-ball in England, I can play white-ball in England. That's my thought process. So I really want to focus on my red-ball in 2020.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo