Of all the criticisms aimed at Geraint Jones, lack of courage can be excluded after the England wicketkeeper gave a clear indication of his desire to retain possession of the gloves here last night.
It came after the longest-running sub-plot of England's summer took a painful twist when the latest in a string of low scores that has placed Jones under increasing pressure was compounded by the kind of misfortune every member of his profession dreads. Jones, who has maintained his position as England's principal gloveman despite a Test batting average this summer of below 15, was obliged to follow another cheap dismissal with an immediate diversion to the treatment room after taking two blows to the ring finger of his right hand.
The damage raised fears about his fitness to keep wicket for the remainder of this match, let alone in the Test at Headingley that starts next Friday. Yet after spending much of the three hours between his dismissal and the start of Pakistan's second innings with the finger packed in ice, Jones showed his determination to fulfil his duties by taking the field.
Both blows were inflicted by the Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Sami during an aggressive, if somewhat erratic, spell in which he appeared to single Jones out for a number of short-pitched deliveries, one of which the wicketkeeper hooked for six over the head of the fielder at long leg.
It was the next ball that effectively ended his innings, striking him on almost the same part of his right hand stung by the first ball he had faced. Still wincing, Jones tried to pull the next delivery sent down by Sami but missed it by some distance, the ball thudded into his pads and umpire Simon Taufel gave him out.
It was a poor shot that spelt his fifth single-figure dismissal of the summer in England colours. Some sympathy is in order this time, even if there is no disguising the general wretchedness of his form this year in the element of his game that has kept him above Nottinghamshire's Chris Read in the pecking order since May 2004.
Jones endorsed the selectors' reasoning with a century against New Zealand at Headingley in June of that year but his contribution with the bat has been in decline for the last 12 months. In 31 Tests he has not added to that one hundred and although he did score two half-centuries on the subcontinent last winter his visits to the crease have tended to be short-lived.
This summer, 14 innings in Test and one-day cricket have not yielded a score higher than the 23 he made in the fourth NatWest series match against Sri Lanka. His seven Test innings add up to a paltry 82 runs at 13.66.
Ironically, yesterday's setback came at a moment when Jones was beginning to believe he could answer his critics in the right way both behind and in front of the stumps.
"I'd like to think I've coped with the pressure very well," he said this week. "The intensity has increased over the last few months, which has coincided with Chris Read getting some good scores. I've done really well with the gloves recently and that was one area where I wanted to prove everyone wrong and that I can keep. I have scored runs in Test cricket and I feel in good form, so I know there is a score coming."
Coincidentally, the Pakistan opener Imran Farhat injured the same finger in taking the catch that dismissed Kevin Pietersen in the first over of the day but batted in the evening session despite X-rays revealing a fracture.
Shot of the day
Ian Bell played sumptuous shots to all corners of the Old Trafford ground yesterday. The most eye-catching was the first on-drive he played off Umar Gul - straight out of the coaching manual.
Ball of the day
Left-handers hate deliveries that seam or swing back into them and it was this type of ball from Umar Gul that dismissed Alastair Cook. It pitched on middle stump and would have hit the top of off.
Moment of the day
Ian Bell's celebrations at reaching his century were far more animated than those from Alastair Cook. Bell lost his place to Cook at the start of the summer but it will be hard now for the selectors to drop either of them when Flintoff, and maybe even Vaughan, return to fitness for the Ashes series.
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