World T20: England bowler Chris Jordan the ‘Duke of Yorkers’

Chris Jordan not only believes in the yorker as a weapon, but believes in his ability to bowl it each time he wants to bowl it, and that self-belief is as important.

New Zealand's Colin Munro(L)looks on as England's Chris Jordan delivers a ball during the World T20 cricket tournament semi-final match between England and New Zealand at The Feroz Shah Kotla Cricket Ground in New Delhi on March 30, 2016. / AFP / SAJJAD HUSSAIN
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Yorkers are not easy deliveries to bowl. If that sounds like a statement of the obvious, then consider that it is not just as a skill that it is difficult to master but that it takes a lot out of a bowler physically.

According to Wasim Akram, for instance, a yorker takes more out of a bowler than a bouncer does. That physical toll, reasoned Akram in an interview last year, was the main reason why the frequency and potency of the yorker as a weapon was slipping.

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The game that Akram left, however, and the game he watches now are vastly different. Modern bowlers will counter that yorkers are not just difficult to bowl but that batsmen have evolved to a point where they have more responses than ever before to the yorker.

But some days, such as Wednesday evening, when Chris Jordan was bowling them against New Zealand, it feels more natural to steer towards what Akram was implying – that not enough bowlers bowl it well enough for it to be considered potent any longer. Jasprit Bumrah’s late overs in India’s win against Bangladesh also strengthen this case, that even now, if you get them right, they win you matches.

Jordan not only believes in the yorker as a weapon, but believes in his ability to bowl it each time he wants to bowl it, and that self-belief is as important. Jason Roy’s 78 killed the chase and won the man-of-the-match award, Ben Stokes picked up more wickets and England’s spinners began the pull-back of New Zealand’s start, but Jordan was the man who killed New Zealand’s innings, who ensured whatever momentum there was at the end of the innings, was taken by the fielding side.

He conceded just 12 runs off the 17th and 19th overs of the innings, and perhaps there was only one ball in those 12 that went wrong enough for a boundary to be struck. Pace, Akram believes, is key to a good yorker, as well as an ability to make the ball dip. Jordan has the pace and spears in his yorkers so that, more often than not, they dip sharply enough for batsmen to be unable to get under them.

That was part of a death-overs spell in which England conceded just 20 off the last four. Stokes’s figures may look more impressive but he got away with a couple of yorkers that went wrong. On another day, different batsmen might have reaped maximum rewards from the two full tosses that brought Stokes wickets in succession in the 18th over.

Another truth becomes clear after watching Jordan bowl them; that the yorker is a delivery borne of rhythm. Get a couple right and they beget a few more. Your body internalises the process: the release points, the areas to target, sensing the batsman’s movements as they happen.

It is also a delivery borne of hours of intense practice. Akram would spend hours in nets bowling only yorkers. Sky Sports offered a peek into how hard England wok to get it right, filming a little piece on it from England’s final practice session on the day before this game.

Three sets of coloured markers were laid out at the yorker length, but placed along different lines of delivery. As England’s bowlers ran in, the bowling coach Otis Gibson would yell out at the moment of delivery which coloured marker he wanted his bowler to hit.

It was not just about getting the length or line right, but being able to adjust at the very last moment to a batsman’s movements. Hit middle stump, hit wide of off, go deeper if necessary.

The benefits of the amount of detail they go into with their yorker practice – always short, sharp and conducted at high intensity – has been especially evident in their last two games.

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