I can beat injury jinx and play for England again, says Jones
When the news first came through, it was difficult to know whether to laugh or cry. Simon Jones, one of the band of four England pacemen who helped them win the Ashes in 2005, was injured again.
Jones, who has not represented his country since taking five wickets in the crucial victory over Australia at Trent Bridge in that glorious summer three years ago, had changed counties hoping for a change of luck but had broken down on his Worcestershire debut. Is that it, some sages may have wondered.
Thankfully, he only has a stiff neck, and should play his first one-day game today against Somerset. He is also incredibly upbeat, helped by the fact that his partner, Justine, gave birth to their second child, an 8lb boy named Charlie, last week.
"I was trying to duck out of the way of a bouncer [in the four-day game with Warwickshire] and [the neck] just tweaked slightly. But I'm in the squad and, to be honest, overall I've never felt better," he says, touching the wooden bench for luck.
Injury and jinx are two words which go together with Jones. Since 2005, when he scythed through Australia's batting, taking 18 wickets at 21 apiece with devastating reverse swing (and was voted ninth sexiest man in the world by New Women magazine) he has been at loggerheads with his body. First an ankle spur, then problems with a knee which he injured terribly on the first day of the 2002-03 Ashes series in Brisbane, and last season he suffered from back spasms and had to endure another flare-up with the knee.
His Test wicket strike rate of a scalp every 47 balls is far superior to Stephen Harmison's 57 and Andrew Flintoff's 65. If only he can stay off the treatment table, perhaps the selectors may come calling again. "It was the best pre-season I've had for years. I'm about 90 per cent at the moment, not far off full pace. I've got a fresh start here and hopefully good things will come from it. England know what I have to offer when I'm running in and bowling at pace, but I've got a lot to do first. I've been out of the England frame for a while. A lot has changed.
"But I know I can do it. I had a bit to do with Peter Moores when I was at the Academy and I was massively impressed. He's big on fitness, which you need now, and I have a lot of respect for all the guys in the set-up."
The 29-year-old Welshman admits it was a terrible wrench to leave Sophia Gardens after 12 years with Glamorgan. "I've been round long enough in professional sport now, but yes it hurt a bit, the whole business. All I wanted to do was get on the park and play... it's difficult."
After spending time in his company, it is obvious that Jones is too nice to say a bad word about anyone. He has no great ego and resembles other speed merchants who suffered from white-line fever – Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Glenn McGrath were mean men with a ball in their hands, but have hearts of gold off the field.
That Ashes summer kept him going during his rehabilitation over the winter, which was overseen by Worcestershire's coach, Steve Rhodes, who hailed his signing as the Pears' best piece of business since Ian Botham arrived at the club 20 years ago.
With one last look at 2005, Jones says: "It's the best dressing room I've been in; we were fearless, it was like a club atmosphere, playing with a group of mates. We knew we had them rumbled early on in the series – that was the best feeling of all, knowing we'd got under the skin of all these great Australians. It's obviously the career highlight."
What about the open-top bus ride and the visit to No 10? "It was all a bit surreal, we'd all had a fair bit to drink," he calls. "It's sad we're never going to be together again. As it stands, Freddie, Harmy, Hoggy and myself have got it all to prove. I'm still in touch with Hoggy and KP [Pietersen] a lot. I count them as two of my best friends."
Of his new path at New Road, he says: "It feels like a fresh start in so many ways – I've hopefully put my injury worries behind me. I don't like surprises." Some stability in Jones's life would be welcome. After all, the next Ashes series is less than 450 days away.
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