'Jones the Pace' generates buzz of hungry expectation

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The Independent Online

Only the other day, Geoff Boycott was explaining to BBC radio listeners that Simon Jones's bowling was effectively a load of old codswallop. He said that there were several other bowlers round the counties who were more deserving and that the South Africans praising Jones would say that, wouldn't they, because they wanted to keep him in the team.

Only the other day, Geoff Boycott was explaining to BBC radio listeners that Simon Jones's bowling was effectively a load of old codswallop. He said that there were several other bowlers round the counties who were more deserving and that the South Africans praising Jones would say that, wouldn't they, because they wanted to keep him in the team.

Since Boycott is recognised as the most acute, not to mention single-minded of analysts, it can be perilous to disagree, but it was looking a pretty dodgy opinion by the end of proceedings yesterday. Other Yorkshiremen might have suggested that "Boycs" didn't know what was going off out there. After a quiet opening spell in the morning, Jones pouched a stunning running catch on the backward square leg boundary, scooping his hands under the ball inches from the ground. This accounted for South Africa's captain, Graeme Smith, who had made 55. "It was a big wicket for us, it gives you a buzz," Jones said.

The buzz must have become a cacophony shortly after lunch when he returned for a second spell and immediately destabilised the home team's second innings. In 7.1 overs he took 4 for 18. His second ball got the other big wicket, probably the one England wanted above all. Jacques Kallis has scored more than 1,000 runs, at an average of above 80, in Tests this year and is obviously in some sort of form. But Jones snaked through his defence and rightly won an lbw verdict.

There was more debate about the umpiring decision on the next ball when Shaun Pollock was adjudged caught behind, but Jones later bowled Thami Tsolekile with a delightful slower ball and had Makhaya Ntini leg before. By now he was gliding in and generating a hint of reverse swing. People were expecting things to happen.

Jones might have had a fifth wicket had not Andrew Hall been run out going for a second because he was trying to protect Dale Steyn from Jones's bowling. Jones led England from the field and that was probably not the most appropriate time to go and ask Geoff for his list of county seamers who could create havoc like this.

When Jones was picked for this tour, he had lost his place in the starting XI to James Anderson. But early form away from home counts for much and Jones was impressive both in the nets and in a couple of the one-dayers in Zimbabwe.

"I worked hard in the nets and so did Jimmy. It's a bit harsh because we're very good friends. But you have to have opposition for places. That's the only way a team can stay strong and hungry. I didn't have a bowl at the start of South Africa's innings and that's up to the captain, but I felt good today."

Jones has become a different type of bowler from the one who first broke into the England team more than two years ago. Then he was the wild man from Wales, a speed merchant to make batsmen worry about their bodily parts and in some cases their bodily functions. The horrific knee injury he suffered in Australia in November 2002 might have forced a lesser man out of the game.

Jones has never been quite as electrifyingly fast since his return, less wild man than accounts clerk, but he thinks he has exchanged a loss of pace for increased control. He also insists there is more speed to come. Jones's form yesterday demonstrated the importance of the bowling unit.

Since England started their hot streak in Jamaica last February most of the plaudits have gone rightly to Stephen Harmison. But on occasion he has been unconvincing - this match has been one such - and the others have ridden to the rescue. It is one measure of a good team and yesterday it was the turn of "Jones the Pace" - with more to come.

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