Home is where the heat is on for Jones

The Queensland-raised keeper's glovework will be scrutinised this week, writes Stephen Brenkley

England flew into Brisbane last night to meet their destiny and a team of Australian cricketers desperate to reshape it. For all the tourists the next seven weeks will have a huge bearing on the rest of their professional lives, but for one among them the journey to Queensland had an overwhelming significance in every sense.

Geraint Jones was returning to the state where he spent his formative years, to the city where he finished his formal education and first played significant cricket. At the Gabba on Thursday he will be watched by friends and relatives, some with divided loyalties. But the homecoming, if it was such, was considerably more poignant.

Jones has been controversially recalled as England's wicketkeeper for the first Test and it is hardly stretching a point to suggest that the fate of the series is in his hands. All the attention in the endless prognostication leading to the series has dwelt on batting and bowling.

But it is likely to be through catching in general that England will ultimately retain or relinquish the Ashes and the catching of the wicketkeeper in particular. Jones has been brought back into the team at the expense of Chris Read for whom he himself was dropped last summer. The reputation and career not only of Jones but also of England's coach, Duncan Fletcher, is at stake. And the Ashes, of course.

A single fumble will bring pursed lips, a dropped catch will bring opprobrium and if Jones thought he might be spared at least until those occurrences he was sadly mistaken. His selection was roundly derided by Shane Warne last night and from the look and sound of it the leg-spinner was not merely indulging in a spot of last-minute pre-series sport.

As Jones prepared to embark on the distinctly unsentimental journey yesterday, he reflected on the recall. "I'm a little bit surprised. I came away with Chris having the gloves at the end of the summer so I thought the first two weeks would be crucial," he said. "The early timing of finding out was good for me. I feel for Chris but it gave me a chance to get my head round it."

If Jones was surprised it is fair to say that many observers were astounded. For as long as Jones was in the team - for 31 consecutive Tests until he was dropped for the final two matches of the Pakistan series - debate raged about the quality of his work behind the stumps.

It was the ultimate irony that he was dropped eventually not for his moderate keeping, which had improved markedly, but for his batting. He had stopped getting runs. Read did all that could have been reasonably expected of him in his two Tests back. He scored 38, 55, 33 and took six catches and a stumping. Jones, meanwhile, was so short of form that he played for Kent's second team before, at last, scoring a couple of Championship half-centuries at the season's fag end.

Read went as wicketkeeper to the Champions Trophy where his batting under pressure was found wanting in all three matches. His keeping was generally tidy, but a couple of misses left him vulnerable. Fletcher, who has ultimate selection powers on tour, made his move early in Australia. Read was out.

Warne did a fine impression of Disgusted of St Kilda. "By dropping Jones, going back to Read, then going back to Jones again he'll be under enormous pressure," the great leg-spinner said. "It's a known fact - it's not me sledging or anything like that - that Jones is more of a batsman and is in the side for his batting, not his keeping which is steady at best.

"He has dropped some crucial ones, you don't want to be dropping Ricky Ponting when he's on half a dozen in the first Test when you've just been called back into the side. In Australian conditions you need your best keeper because the ball does bounce and it does carry. You've got to hold on to absolutely everything behind the stumps. So you need your best keeper in, that's why I thought they brought Read back."

There might have been an element of kidology in this analysis but it also made a deal of sense. Jones has to catch pigeons from now on. Comparisons are not entirely fair because keepers are only as good as their bowlers. However, in Tests for England, Read has conceded 0.65 byes per 100 balls, Jones 1.56 but Read has 1.83 wickets per innings while Jones has 2.07, a figure which astoundingly puts him first among those who have played more than 20 Tests.

Read thought for all the world that he had come on this tour as the No 1 keeper. Jones admitted it was difficult for Read when the decision was made. "I felt for him. But our relationship is good. We still work out in the gym together and are basically friends. It's nothing personal between us."

The fans who were pouring into this city last night will not think likewise. It could become extremely personal indeed if Jones shells one on Thursday morning.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road