Simon Jones: The catch and the match of my life

Port Elizabeth was wonderful but there's much more to come from this England
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The Independent Online

One down, four to go. Eight Test wins in a row, and the feeling has flooded through the England team that we can go on to beat South Africa in this series. We know they will come back at us; they have recalled Herschelle Gibbs, one of the best opening batsmen around, and he will be bound to have an effect. They are also an extremely proud side who are aware of the importance of representing their country.

In the First Test, when I was batting I was hit and bruised by both Makhaya Ntini and their new fast bowler Dale Steyn, but as Boeta Dippenaar said to me: "You're doing it for your country." So they will fight all the way with that in mind. Cricket and sport generally mean a huge amount to this country.

But I feel that England are the better of the two teams. And we have pride too, as we showed by coming back from the defeat in the warm-up game against South Africa A. That was a kick up the arse for us and we worked hard after it. With two Tests coming up in a week, we have it in our power to control the destiny of the series.

Monday was the big day in Port Elizabeth, the day when the match went England's way and my way. I had not bowled the night before, although I had been itching to get into the action. Fifteen minutes before play started, Michael Vaughan told me I would open the bowling that day.

Just as we left the dressing room, another thing happened. Duncan Fletcher, our coach, knew I was going to be fielding on the boundary and said: "Jonah, just be careful of the wind, it can do strange things." Nothing much happened in the first spell, but importantly I felt good. I tried to tempt Graeme Smith with something wider and kept it tighter to Jacques Kallis, trying the odd one going into him.

But the fact was that Smith and Kallis both looked in good nick, as though they were set for the day. After my spell I went out into the deep, just backward of square. No sooner was I there than Smith, a compulsive hooker, got underneath a short ball from Freddie Flintoff.

I thought the ball was coming directly to me, and then as it continued on its flight, Fletcher's words came back. The ball was suddenly dipping, I had to break into a run and keep my eyes still. I ran, dived forward and squeezed my hands under the ball two inches from the ground. It was the best catch I have ever taken because of the technical difficulty, the batsman involved and the circumstances of the match.

That changed things for us, but there remained the prolific Kallis. In my first over after lunch I got him with a ball that nipped back and hit him on his back pad. Next delivery I had Shaun Pollock caught behind. Replays showed that he was unlucky - I was mortified by them. I honestly thought he had got a big inside edge, and both the wicketkeeper, Geraint Jones, and the umpire, Simon Taufel, agreed. I wouldn't cheat anybody out.

"Hat-trick Patrick," I thought, and bowled a full-length ball on the stumps to Andrew Hall in the attempt to get it. Six inches further up and I might have sneaked it through. I was bowling as well by now as I have ever done for England, and next came the wicket that will live with me forever, not just for the dismissal, but for what happened next, as they say on A Question of Sport.

I decided to bowl Thami Tsolekile a slower ball, because he is a gutsy, unorthodox player. I got it exactly right, he was utterly deceived and bowled. My reaction was instinctive, but unfortunately turned out to be a sad impression of John Travolta, for which my team-mates have ribbed me mercilessly.

I got a fourth wicket in Ntini and might have made it five. Andrew Strauss did the rest. He is a remarkable man. We are cut from different cloth - he went to public school and university, I didn't - but we get on famously. He takes the mickey out of my Welshness, I mock his middle-classness. And boyo, can he bat.

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