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August 21, 2005
Chairman of selectors, David Graveney, launched a spirited defence of wicketkeeper Geraint Jones after naming an unchanged squad for the fourth Ashes Test against Australia starting at Trent Bridge on Thursday.
Jones, raised in Australia, was criticised for dropping two catches in the first Test at Lord's. And he found himself in the spotlight again after dropping a sitter off Shane Warne, having already missed a chance to stump him in the recently drawn third Test of the five-match series at Old Trafford.
However, Jones made some amends with a superb one-handed catch to get rid of Warne in the second innings after Andrew Strauss had dropped the inital slip chance and Graveney maintained that, for all the comment, there was never a chance of the Kent gloveman losing his place.
"I thought he responded brilliantly - he had a tough period as far as the media is concerned when there was only an hour's play so his errors got a lot of attention," Graveney told BBC Radio Five Live on Sunday as he recalled the keeper's tough spell during the rain-affected third day at Old Trafford.
"But that goes with the territory and the way he responded with the bat, the way he played setting up the declaration, and also I have a very vivid memory of his brilliant reaction catch to get rid of Shane Warne."
England, who have lost the last eight Ashes series, were beaten by 239 runs at Lord's last month and in past home encounters against Australia, that might have led to wholesale changes. For example, on Australia's last visit in 2001, England used 19 players in a 4-1 defeat although that figure was dwarfed by the 29 players who appeared during the six-Test 1989 series Australia won 4-0.
But Graveney insisted the selectors decision to stick by the same side had been vindicated by the way England won the second Test at Edgbaston and so nearly took a 2-1 lead in the five-match series at Old Trafford where Australia clung on for a draw with one wicket standing.
"I think our real test was after the first Test match when we didn't play well, we were outplayed, so there was a lot of comment about the same old England are we going to lose 5-0. That was probably a period of time when we had to hold our nerve, we decided those guys were the ones we'd selected in the first Test match so they don't become bad players overnight," he said.
"We said let's give them another chance and they've taken that chance and played some great cricket as a group over the last two games. Sometimes in the job that I've done I've been slightly horrified by the number of players who get used over the course of a summer."
"There is no doubt I've learnt in doing this job that you've got to get away from the environment of players continually looking over their shoulders the first time they play. If you select them, give them a decent chance to show what they can do."
Graveney also gave his full support to the decision to stop England centrally-contracted players appearing for their counties in Saturday's C and G Trophy semi-finals. He said he would have no problems with a fresh request from England coach Duncan Fletcher to rest players from the Trophy final, which takes place just a week before the fifth Test at The Oval.
"All the players would probably like to go back and represent their counties but the priority is to give us the best possible chance to win at Trent Bridge. "It's Duncan's call but all the selectors are behind the decision. If that is the call he is going to make we are fully behind that."
However, there may be a fresh flashpoint if, as advertised, several members of the current Test team take part in a Twenty20 match against Yorkshire, which is part of England captain Michael Vaughan's benefit season, at Headingley on August 31.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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