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Chris Jordan: Pressure for places is driving England's players to keep improving

Fast bowler still keen to learn on the job as England seek improvements to winning formula

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Chris Jordan celebrates with Eoin Morgan after removing Quinton de Kock, South Africa vs England, 2nd T20I, Paarl, November 29, 2020

Chris Jordan celebrates with Eoin Morgan after removing Quinton de Kock  •  Getty Images

Chris Jordan says that a mixture of intra-squad rivalry and on-field collaboration has been the key to England's T20I success in South Africa, after the team came through two stiff tests in Cape Town and Paarl to secure an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
In the course of Sunday's four-wicket win in Paarl, Jordan also drew level with Stuart Broad as England's leading T20I wicket-taker with 65 scalps in 54 games. But, he said, such accolades were just a by-product of the team's success, and that he took more satisfaction from the improvements he and his fellow bowlers had made from the first match to the second.
"Winning the series, that's what we set out to do first and foremost," Jordan told Sky Sports after Sunday's victory. "It's obviously a nice milestone to have but, as long as I'm doing the job for the team, and the team are winning series and winning games, I'm more than happy. If the accolades come with that, then so be it.
"It was a solid team performance in the first game, but we put a lot of things right this game, especially in the bowling department and to restrict them to 146, on what we thought was a pretty decent wicket, and to get over the line, was very pleasing.
"Once we'd got a couple of wickets, we were able to build a bit a little bit of pressure, build a few dots," he added. "But with our batting line-up, most par scores feel as if the teams are 15-20 short most of the time, and [Dawid Malan's] innings shows why he's at No.1 right now."
England's captain, Eoin Morgan, had been underwhelmed with England's efforts in the field in Friday's opening fixture, describing the performance as "average" after South Africa racked up a challenging 179 for 6 in their 20 overs - a total that was only overcome thanks to Jonny Bairstow's brilliant 86 not out from 48 balls.
And Jordan admitted he had taken that criticism on the chin and gone away to work on his game to visible effect, as did his fellow death bowler, Tom Curran, who followed up figures of 1 for 55 at Newlands - the most expensive T20I figures of his career - with a much improved haul of 1 for 37, which included an excellent 20th over in which he conceded just seven runs.
"We didn't really speak as an entire group," Jordan said. "You just drag the coaches to one side, and make your own personal assessments on the game. For the first game, I gave away a couple of soft wides which then cost me at the back end of the over with a couple of boundaries, so I just tried to tidy that up.
"And TC [Curran], he tried to stick to his strengths as much as possible, and go to his slowies a little bit earlier. He was a bit more clever with the way he bowled, and was able to look after his figures as well. So it's about making those personal assessments and trying to put those wrongs right."
As Morgan admitted ahead of the opening fixture, victory in South Africa hasn't been England's sole objective for the series. The process of defining roles for each player in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup has been every bit as important, and thanks to two highly competitive intra-squad warm-up games as well as the on-field collaboration that he and his fellow bowlers have been working on this week, Jordan believes they've already made good strides.
"In the first couple of overs, we try to get a read [of the pitch] from Sam and Jof," Jordan said. "I stand at mid-off quite a lot, so I'm just trying to get feedback from the bowlers, until I get into the game myself. Obviously Jof's a taller bowler, Sam's a skiddier bowler, me and TC are probably a little bit similar in height, so we try to get a read, almost every single ball, and then feed back to Morgs and try and come up with the best possible plans.
"The competition for places is brilliant," he added. "[The warm-up games] were really good fun because everyone wanted to get each other out, or match each other for sixes. It just raised the level of everyone's game.
"The way Sam [Curran] is striking the ball at the minute is pretty unbelievable, he's come back with a lot of confidence from the IPL. Stokesy and Rooty, there's a little bit of rivalry there as well, but it's all in good spirits because we're trying to pull in the same direction as a team. We're trying to make the entire team and squad better, and those type of things just get you ready for series like this."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket