CRICKETER OF THE YEAR - 1900

AO Jones

A. O. Jones was born on the 16th of August, 1873, but he can already look back upon a fairly long career in first-class cricket. It was in the season of 1892 that he became connected with the Notts eleven, the match in which he made his first appearance being against Lancashire at Trent Bridge, in the middle of June. The Notts eleven were in great form in 1892, only just missing the championship, and in this match against Lancashire they did some of their best work, winning by six wickets after being 39 runs behind on the first innings. It was a brilliant victory, and Jones had a notable share in it. He had made 17 not out in his first innings, and when Notts went in on the third afternoon with 222 wanted to win he was selected by Mr. Dixon to open the innings with Shrewsburry. The experiment proved brilliantly successful, Jones helping Shrewsbury to score 75 for the first wicket and being only out at last to a very fine piece of fielding. He made 38 and his innings was in every respect so good as to convince the Notts authorities that a real acquisition to the county eleven had been discovered. Time has proved that this estimate of A. O. Jones' ability was a perfectly correct one, but the young batsman took no sudden jump to the front, his powers being rather slow to ripen. Even when he failed to get runs, however, he was always doing something for his side, his fielding, whether at slip or long off, being as safe as it was brilliant. When he first played for Notts he was a Freshman at Cambridge, having gone up from Bedford Modern School. He got his blue in 1893, but it cannot be said that he did much at the University, scoring only 2 and 16 not out against Oxford, at Lord's, and being at the bottom of the averages for a team that, with F. S. Jackson at its head, was very rich in run-getters. He only played in eight matches for Notts in 1893, meeting with little or no success, and in the following year, though he batted in rather better form, he played only five times for the county. These two seasons formed the least hopeful part of his career, and there seemed reason to fear that his early promise would not be fulfilled. However, the season of 1895 brought with it a marked change in his fortunes. Notts had a wretched season, winning only three county matches and losing ten, but Jones did capital work for a bad side, scoring 720 runs with an average of 23. He was able to play regularly and after a run of bad luck in the middle of the season, he finished up in better form than he had ever shown before, with four innings of over fifty-two against Lancashire, at Old Trafford, and two against Kent, at Trent Bridge. From 1895 Jones, though, like other batsman, he has had his periods of bad as well as good luck, has never looked back. He score 764 runs in county matches for Notts in 1896, with an average of 29; 702 runs in 1897, with again an average of 29 and 756 runs in 1898, with once more the same average, the fact of his being on a side that seldom tasted the delights of victory having no power to damp his enthusiasm. Probably his finest innings during these seasons was superb 98 against Surrey in the Whit Monday match at Trent Bridge, in 1896, but he himself thinks his best effort was a fiercely hit 162 against Middlesex, also at Trent Bridge, in 1897. Finely as he had played on many occasions, however, there was nothing in his cricket down to the end of 1898 to suggest that he would be picked for England last summer in one of the Test matches. However, he batted splendidly from the start of the season, and his selection for England at the Oval in August was no mere compliment, but only the proper reward of genuine merit. He did very well in the match, though like others he was compelled by reasons of time to play a false game, and at all costs force the pace. His fielding was as good as it always is, and he proved a useful change bowler. For Notts he had by far the best season he has yet enjoyed, fairly dividing honours with Shrewsbury and Gunn. Jones is one of the most refreshing batsman now before the public. His eagerness to get runs may often cost him his wicket, but nothing can be more delightful than his hitting when he is really set. A more brilliant, punishing player on the off side it would be hard to find, and he is full of resource. Heart and soul in the game, he is at all times and season one of the keenest of cricketers.

© John Wisden & Co