Geraint Jones: 'There are no good memories for me of that match in Perth'
Four years ago the wicketkeeper was part of the England side that surrendered the urn at the Waca. The pain remains, he tells Will Hawkes
Thursday 16 December 2010
Cast your mind back four years. Then it was England going into the Perth Test in trouble, having gone 2-0 down at Adelaide after a devastating last-day collapse. Australia, by contrast, were a finely tuned machine as the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist signed off from the Ashes by starring in one of the most one-sided series that this venerable contest has seen. By the end of the Waca Test, it was 3-0 and all over. And it was to get worse.
One of those on the receiving end was Geraint Jones, the Kent wicketkeeper who played his last Test match for England at the Waca. He made a pair in the final act of an international career that touched the heights and the depths; Perth undoubtedly falls in the latter category. "There are no good memories for me of that match," said Jones, who was replaced by Chris Read for the fourth and fifth Tests of the series. "We were flat after Adelaide and only Alastair Cook came out of that match moderately happy as he scored his first Ashes century. To have lost the Ashes after just three matches – it was so disappointing.
"I remember that the Aussie fans were all over our backs because they were so on top. Adam Gilchrist played that remarkable innings – one of the fastest of all time, a magnificent hundred – and the Australian supporters were loving it. Not brilliant memories. I expect it's a bit different this time."
Indeed it is. Jones could be forgiven for wishing England had been so together and composed in 2006-07. "It looks like a great squad to be a part of," he says. "It always is good when you are winning. But I had the same thing in 2005. That was the highlight for me: to win the Ashes back after so many years was fantastic."
The decisive blow in 2006-07 came in the Test before Perth. "It was so disappointing because we felt we had played our way back into the Test series on the first three days at Adelaide," Jones said. "Then the last day knocked the stuffing out of us. With a draw, we would have gone into Perth in a much better state."
Jones has clearly now accepted the disappointing end to his international career. He is a senior member of a young Kent team that has more potential than proven class and owns a small holding close to Canterbury where he raises sheep and pigs. It has taken time for him to come to terms with the 2006-07 Ashes – at the start of the 2007 county season, he was still clearly struggling with the memories of what was, personally speaking as well as team-wise, a disastrous tour. What made it harder was that Jones had become the poster boy for how Duncan Fletcher's England had gone from Ashes winners to the worst ever side to tour Down Under.
The start of the process of getting over that came straight after Perth when, no longer a member of the Test side, he flew with the rest of the squad to Melbourne. "Being out of the team meant the pressure was off and I was really able to enjoy myself in Melbourne and Sydney," he said. "If this England team can win in Perth, they'll be able to do the same thing. They are two magnificent cities. I was able to take my mind off the cricket there."
First, though, they must win at the Waca, something England have managed only once in the history of the ground (in 1978, when Australia's side had been pillaged by World Series Cricket). Much of the talk before this current match was about how the infamous ground was back to its bouncy best but, according to Jones, it wasn't like that four years ago. "It was not fast, in fact it was fairly slow," he said. "There wasn't even much bounce. It wasn't anything like a Perth pitch is supposed to be.
"I actually really enjoyed playing at Perth, despite my pair: it's more like a cricket ground whereas some of the venues in Australia are huge stadiums."
Jones is enjoying the reversal of fortune that this Ashes series has produced so far. "It's interesting to see the Aussies chopping and changing, dropping Mitchell Johnson and then recalling him," he said. "They're in a state of panic. By contrast, all the plans we've prepared have been fantastic. You have to give [Andy] Flower and [Andrew] Strauss credit: it has been a massive contrast to four years ago. I'm really hopeful that the boys can bring home the Ashes."
2006 Perth scorecard
Australia 244 (Panesar 5-92) & 527 for 5 dec (Clarke 135, Gilchrist 102 no) beat England 215 & 350 (Cook 116) by 206 runs. Australia go 3-0 up and regain Ashes.
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