The England selectors yesterday gave Andrew Strauss' side a timely reminder that they should not take their places in the team for granted when they dropped Geraint Jones from the squad for the third Test. In the afterglow of a comprehensive victory over Pakistan at Old Trafford, and after watching Jones claim five dismissals behind the stumps, it would have been easy for the committee to either reselect the wicketkeeper, or omit him because of his fractured right ring finger.
But rather than take the expected options, David Graveney, Geoff Miller and Duncan Fletcher chose to drop Jones after 31 consecutive Tests and give Chris Read a third chance to show that he can make it as a Test cricketer. Jones has had a poor summer with the bat, averaging just 13.7 in five Tests against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, yet it still came as a surprise to hear that he had been dropped rather than rested.
The England selectors resisted the temptation to leave Jones out when his wicketkeeping was indifferent and the team were struggling. But after producing one of their finest performances since the Ashes, England have opted to shake things up and pick Read. The abrupt and rather ruthless manner of the changeover is reminiscent of when Read lost his place to Jones prior to the fourth Test against the West Indies in April 2004.
"Geraint has kept very well this summer, but he has been short of runs and the selectors feel the time is right for a change," said Graveney, the chairman of selectors. "We have taken the decision regardless of the injury to Geraint's finger. The key factor for the selectors was his form with the bat and we believe that he will benefit from having a break from international cricket and spending more time in the middle with his county.
"There is real competition for places in the wicketkeeping department at present and I am sure Chris will want to make the most of his opportunity. "
Read is considered by many to be the best gloveman in the country and his omission for a better batsman angered those who believe the wicketkeeping position should be given to a specialist. Jones' all-round play and the way his personality fits in to the side have made him one of Duncan Fletcher's favourite players. Read is a more independent and free-speaking young man and this may not appeal to the England coach, who likes to control most of what his players say or do.
"I felt that I kept well in the West Indies two years ago, but I knew that if I was going to get back in the Test side I would have to work on my batting because I hadn't scored enough runs," Read said after hearing of his recall. "So I made a conscious effort to look at my batting and analyse where I can improve. Things have gone well for me and I feel that I have reaped the rewards by scoring well in both first-class and one-day cricket over the last couple of years."
Read has hit almost 2,400 first-class runs at an average of 47 since being dropped in the Caribbean yet, ironically, he has scored just 32 runs in his last four visits to the crease.
Jones' predicament highlights a drawback in Fletcher's reluctance to let his centrally contracted players play for their counties. Net practice between Tests is all well and good, but confidence can only be regained by scoring runs in the middle, and Jones has rarely been allowed to do this with Kent.
"It's a blow to lose my place, but the selectors have explained the reason why and I will be working extremely hard to win it back," Jones said. "It is up to me to go back to Kent and, as soon as my finger has recovered, look to score plenty of runs and put myself back in the frame for the Ashes this winter."Reuse content