Geraint Owen Jones
July 14, 1976, Kundiawa, Papua New Guinea
Right hand bat
Harristown State, Queensland
Geraint Jones, as he happily admitted upon his retirement, will be remembered above all for one catch. With an unforgettable 2005 Ashes series surrendering to unbearable tension on a Sunday morning at Edgbaston, his nerve held firm as he swooped to scoop a catch behind the wicket offered by Michael Kasprowicz, to seal the two-run victory that changed Ashes history. He recalled "seeing it in slow motion," rolling over and seeing umpire Billy Bowden's finger going up before joining England's celebrations.
No player better encapsulated the fluctuating fortunes of that memorable series than Jones. Fast-tracked into the Test team at the expense of a superior gloveman, Chris Read, his selection was widely debated throughout the summer. England's coach Duncan Fletcher was a staunch advocate, Jones contributed energy to the cause and vital runs at key moments - none more important than his 85 in a stand of 177 with Andrew Flintoff at Trent Bridge - but he also produced enough fumbles for an edge to become a heart-in-the-mouth moment. He clung on to his place, however, and he also clung on to the chance that really mattered, emerging from the series more or less in credit - if not with his place secure.
Keeping wicket for Kent brings with it a certain weight of history. Ames, Evans, Knott, Downton, Marsh is a formidable backstory, but Jones has earned his place in the dynasty. By the time he moved to Gloucestershire for a last hurrah in the county game, he had established himself as an elder statesman of the Kent squad, and in James Tredwell's absences with England in 2013 he was a natural selection as stand-in captain. In 15 seasons with the club he made 14 hundreds and took more than 450 dismissals in 150 first-class appearances, in addition to his 34 Test caps.
Born in Papua New Guinea to Welsh parents, Jones lived and learned his cricket in Australia until he was 22. He was almost 27 when he first came to the attention of the England selectors, but he had timed his run to perfection.
In the 2003 season - Alec Stewart's last - Jones scored the best part of 1000 runs at an average of more than 50. After a brief stint at Glamorgan, he had moved to Kent, whose supporters are connoisseurs of fine keeping, but his weight of runs in the 2nd XI became a major factor in Paul Nixon's controversial return to Leicestershire.
Jones was rewarded with a call-up to England's Test squad to tour West Indies, and after displacing Read behind the stumps in the fourth and final Test in Antigua, he cemented his place with a thrilling century against New Zealand at Headingley, where his sixth-wicket alliance with Flintoff had England fans rubbing their hands with glee. His counterpunching style remained seemingly well designed for a momentum-seizing half-century, but he had many critics and he managed just two fifties in ten Tests before being dropped in favour of Read in August 2006.
He regained the No. 1 slot for the 2006-07 Ashes - a controversial choice - and, after three unproductive Tests, Fletcher was forced to hand the gloves back to Read. The emergence of Matt Prior in 2007 and the replacement of Fletcher, with Peter Moores (another coach with wicketkeeping experience) taking over, he slipped down the pecking order.
Jones, who is a fully trained pharmacy technician, never seriously threatened to regain his England place but the winter of 2006-7 was not quite the end of his international adventures: five years later, he played for Papua New Guinea in the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers, which took place in Dubai.
An unexpected Lord's final enabled him to retire with his virtues heralded. His shrewd half-century was a vital facet in Gloucestershire's Royal London Cup victory against Surrey. It was a send-off that Jones could hardly have envisaged. The emergence of Sam Billings at Kent had encouraged him to accept a two-year term as Gloucestershire's four-day captain, but by the middle of his second season he had stepped down, feeling that, at 39, his presence had become a hindrance to the development of a young side under the supervision of a new head coach, Richard Dawson. Barely a week after he had made his decision, Iain Cockbain, the new captain, suffered a broken wrist while batting in the nets at Cheltenham. And, as Dawson succinctly put it, Gloucestershire responded by putting another token in the coin-op, as Jones won what turned out to be a glorious recall. After retirement, he took up a post as cricket professional at Brentwood School in Essex.
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