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Jordan Thompson takes his Big Show to the Big Show as Yorkshire target Roses semi-final

Epic final over against Surrey epitomises contribution of team's pivotal personality

David Hopps
David Hopps
Jordan Thompson celebrates Yorkshire's one-run win after a sensational final over  •  Getty Images

Jordan Thompson celebrates Yorkshire's one-run win after a sensational final over  •  Getty Images

Jordan Thompson's rescue act in the last over of Yorkshire's Vitality Blast quarter-final against Surrey not only secured a place in Finals Day, it also underlined what many people already knew: he is now the heartbeat of the Yorkshire side.
What's more, he has given his strongest indication yet that, like his team-mate Harry Brook, who has already committed his long-term future to the county, he wants to stay with Yorkshire as they try to negotiate the most turbulent period in the club's history.
"Like Brooky says, we are building a decent squad of players here and, as a Yorkshire lad, it would be great to play all my career at Headingley and hopefully win some silverware as well," he said.
Thompson has had quite a week or so. He defended five off the last over at the Kia Oval last Wednesday and when the county caravan moved on to Scarborough, he was awarded his county cap. "Number 189," he says, still as proud as punch. "It will stick with me forever. It's an absolute privilege.
Beset by racism allegations for the past year, for Yorkshire the emphasis is on cricket again. Thompson, who plays that cricket in combative fashion with bat and ball, welcomes the chance to create a new narrative.
"Last Wednesday night, the quarter-final was massive. It's up there as the greatest day of my career, along with being capped, so everything is coming at once," he says. "Now, playing the Roses game in the semi-final, hopefully we can turn them over and win the whole thing, but to get to Finals Day itself was the aim as a squad.
That final over is worth a recap. "We probably thought it was out of our hands," he says. "I don't think there were many nerves. There was no pressure on me til the last ball. That last ball was the worst ball of the lot. It probably should have gone for six. I feel like I'm one of the senior players now, so it's now on me to stand up in big situations."
He was faced by two powerful Surrey hitters, Laurie Evans and Jamie Overton, both in the 30s and on the verge of completing victory. A bouncer to Overton to pep things up a bit; two yorkers, allowing singles to each batter; a back-of-the-hand slower ball which ended with Overton being sent back and run out at the striker's end, another full ball which saw Sunil Narine brilliantly caught at deep square by Will Fraine; and - the coup de grace - a wide half-volley with three to win, a swing and a miss by Gus Atkinson, and a futile bye taken with Yorkshire already celebrating.
Thompson broke into the Yorkshire side as a first-change bowler batting at No. 7 or 8. This year, partly through necessity, he has been utilised as a new-ball bowler batting at nine. Ask him what his perfect role is and, emotionally, he wants both. He has a great appetite for the fray.
"It's hard to say. I'll just do what I'm told. Batting 7 or 8 and opening the bowling for me is a perfect role. I feel like I'm growing year on year in different roles. Obviously, it's about doing the job that suits the team best. Staying fit in the main thing."
Fitness, so far has rarely been a problem. It is that robustness that explains a lot of his appeal. He appears to be a bit of a throwback. He has attracted enough attention in the past year to get late deals at the Big Bash and the PSL, although he caught Covid soon after arriving in Pakistan which disrupted his tournament.
"The lads will take the mickey out of me because I am probably one of the unfittest in the team in terms of running stats and things like that," he says. "Touch wood, I'm probably born with a body that can take high-impact force. I am built pretty strong, I'm not sure if I have strong bones or whatever. Maybe because I bowl a lot, I just get used to it."
That resilience makes him an excellent ambassador for Diabetes UK. He has Type 1 diabetes, and needs to take insulin injections to control his glucose levels, but energetic performances seem to define him.
"I have to take care to control my glucose levels when I'm playing because running around and exercise actually makes your blood sugar levels drop. That's why the lads will see me with a lot of Lucozades and Red Bulls and making sure I have the sugar to keep me going through the day. I test myself regularly. I often come off after a bowling spell if I feel a bit iffy. The umpires will know, and I'll make sure that everything's alright and then get myself back on again."
There was a lot of laughter in the Yorkshire dressing room when his T20 captain, David Willey, said in his post-match interview that Thompson "likes to call himself 'The Big Show'" - a moniker adopted by the American professional wrestler, Paul Wight.
"I've been thrown under the bus with that," Thompson smiles. "I was actually named that three or four years ago by Jared Warner who is at Gloucestershire now. The lads think I have a bit of a swagger. I think I'm quite down to earth. I haven't got a big ego but they do it to wind me up. I'd just say I'm a bit of a personality in the dressing room, but nothing too bad."
Is there another T20 big show left for Thompson in the Blast this season? We are about to find out.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps