Simon Jones: The son also rises

Like his father before him, Simon Jones's test career was threatened by serious injury. Unlike his dad, Simon has a second chance - one he intends to exploit to the full in the Ashes Series which begins today
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At around eight, dressed in his England blazer and tie, he will make the short journey from Marylebone Station to the home of cricket. Most cricketers have nightmares about arriving late for a match of this stature, and once in the sanctity of the home dressing-room he will run himself a nice relaxing bath.

The block of wooden lockers in the centre of the dressing-room will be overflowing with energy drinks, energy bars, fruit, boxes of cereal and wine gums, but Jones will politely ask Taff (Peter Lowe, England's attendant) if he could fetch him a bacon buttie. Linda, the Pavilion chef, will lovingly make it, and when Jones returns from his bath he will find it placed in his changing position.

When Jones fell awkwardly and ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first morning of England's Ashes tour in November 2002 he feared that he would never again repeat this experience. As he lay in pain being carried from The Gabba one Aussie fan popped his head over the advertising boards and shouted at him: "Get up, you weak Pommie bastard."

Jones, understandably, has never forgotten the sledge, but the hours of painful, lonely toil at a gym in Cardiff which followed will all seem worthwhile when the 26-year-old walks out behind Michael Vaughan this morning.

"This will be the biggest day of my career," he said this week. "It is something I have been looking forward to for a long, long time. It was the prospect of playing in a game like this that kept me going when I was injured and training at the gym.

"Watching England play the rest of the series with my leg in a pot was unbelievably frustrating and there were several occasions when I wondered whether I would return. It will be special to play against the Australians, not just because of my knee, but also because they are the ones you test yourself against to see how good you really are.

"An injury like this helps you put things into perspective. I nearly had my career taken away from me and it made me realise how lucky I am to be playing a game I enjoy and getting paid for it.

"Before the injury came along I was laid-back about it all and in some ways took things for granted. The injury shocked me and made me treasure what I have got. My dad didn't get a second chance, his career finished when he was 25, so I am seriously lucky to be back where I am."

Simon's father, Jeff, played 15 Test matches for England in the 1960s. The Welshman was also a fast bowler, but he pinged the ball down with his left arm. The 63-year-old took 44 Test wickets but his most notable feat for England came with the bat, when he famously kept out the West Indies at Georgetown in 1967-68 to help win a Test series. England have since won only once in the Caribbean, when Simon helped Vaughan's side to victory 15 months ago.

"He hasn't watched me a lot since I made my debut here at Lord's," Jones said. "But he will be at Lord's [today] and it will be nice to have him around. I talk to him about my cricket all the time, and he has been a great help to me. He has currently played one more Test and taken four more wickets than I have, but I hope to catch him up this week. It would be nice to pass him here in this game."

Vaughan will not hand Jones the new ball. This responsibility will be given to Matthew Hoggard and Stephen Harmison. But he still has a huge role to play in this Test match and the series. In the eyes of many Harmison and Andrew Flintoff will be England's most formidable weapons, and it is Jones's job to keep the pressure on Ricky Ponting's side when these two bowlers are resting.

It took him almost 18 months to recover fully from the horrendous injury he sustained in Brisbane, but during his rehabilitation he made amendments to his action and he has returned a more controlled and better bowler. "I don't think about the knee now," he admitted. "But I will not slide again. I have tried it once since the injury and I fell a little awkwardly so I won't be doing it again.

"But I feel I am now a more rounded and consistent bowler than I was before the injury. I bowl better lines and I am more accurate. I can still bowl as quick - I hit 94 mph in South Africa and there are not many bowlers in the world who get up there very often. I have changed my action a little bit, but that has had nothing to do with my knee. It was to make my action more consistent.

"My role in the side varies and it depends on what Vaughany tells me to do. If he comes up to me and says he wants me to take wickets, or he wants me to get it tight, I will do what he asks me to do.

"I enjoy bowling at Lord's. Some bowlers don't like it because of the slope, but it has not really affected me. It is the place where I made my debut and I like the atmosphere here."

The slightly inconsistent nature of Jones's bowling makes it difficult to predict how he will fare over the coming days but there will be no lack of aggression from him when he has a ball in his hand.

At times the fiery Welshman has failed to control this aspect of his game. On England's last tour of the West Indies he was fined 50 per cent of his match fee when he gave Ramnaresh Sarwan a send-off in Trinidad, and a wild throw during a one-day game against Australia at Edgbaston instigated a heated and ugly confrontation between Matthew Hayden and several members of England's side.

"We will continue to be aggressive," he said defiantly. "We are a young, confident side. We are a tight unit and we will back each other up. The key thing is controlling this aggression. You have to keep your cool. I am handling it a lot better now. When I was younger I used to be a little bit more mad. Then I used to just run in and bowl as quickly as I could. But now I think about things a lot more and adapt to the circumstances. If I get hit for a couple of fours in an over, I have to accept that that happens and get back to my mark and try and return to bowling the right lines."

Jones's success, good looks and athletic body led to him being asked to pose nude - apart from his hands covering his googlies - in Cosmopolitan magazine. The picture was to raise awareness of testicular cancer.

During my career no player was asked - or had the body - to pose in such a manner, but Jones's appearance highlights how high-profile England's cricketers have become.

"I haven't received a lot of fan mail yet," he said with a wink. "But if some more modelling came along, I would consider it. England's success has made us a little bit more recognisable, but I get more recognition in England than in Wales, which is more of a rugby nation."

If Jones were to take five wickets today, however, and England go on to win the Ashes, it might even tempt Charlotte Church to change her allegiance.

Like father, like son: Jeff Jones's career milestones

Ivor Jeffrey Jones born 10 December 1941, Dafen, Carmarthenshire. A right-handed bat and left-arm fast bowler.

He made his Glamorgan debut in 1960, and the first of 15 England appearances in Bombay in January 1964 on the tour to India.

Prominent on 1965-66 Ashes tour. Took his Test best 6 for 118 at Adelaide.

Most notable moment when he blocked the final over of last Test to secure 1-0 series win on the 1967-68 tour of the West Indies.

A shoulder injury in 1968 kept him out of that summer's Ashes, and in 1969 he was diagnosed with arthritis and bone wear in his elbow. Despite efforts to modify his action, his effectiveness was diminished and with doubts over his action, he did not play first-class cricket again.