Spring in the step gives Jones a helping hand

These days international wicketkeepers owe their jobs more to their ability with the bat than with the gloves. This was conclusively underlined when Geraint Jones was chosen in place of Chris Read in the West Indies. Read had performed impeccably behind the stumps in the first three Tests, but his shortage of runs counted irrevocably against him.

These days international wicketkeepers owe their jobs more to their ability with the bat than with the gloves. This was conclusively underlined when Geraint Jones was chosen in place of Chris Read in the West Indies. Read had performed impeccably behind the stumps in the first three Tests, but his shortage of runs counted irrevocably against him.

As the man in possession it was Jones who got the nod at the start of this summer. In the First Test against New Zealand at Lord's he made an excellent 46 and looked every inch a Test batsman. But this had to be set against a performance behind the stumps that would have been hardly adequate for a county keeper in the Second Division.

It highlighted the eternal wicketkeeping dichotomy. It is great to have a keeper batting at No 7 who is capable of scoring a hundred, but what if he drops, say, Brian Lara or Sachin Tendulkar before they have scored? After Lord's the choice of Jones ahead of Read seemed a false economy.

Then came the extraordinary transformation of Jones at Headingley. In New Zealand's long first innings his keeping was no better. But then, when England batted, Jones scored a magnificent hundred on a deteriorating pitch and gave England a match-winning first-innings lead. His extravagant celebrations when he reached three figures showed that the importance of what he had done had not been lost on him.

Brimming with confidence, he now pulled on those unlikely looking orange gloves and one soon had to look twice to make sure that he was the same man as the fumble-fisted, iron-gloved keeper of the first innings. Suddenly his hands were moving like those of a high-class specialist keeper; the ball was now sinking easily and rhythmically into his gloves; he took two outstanding catches and looked the part in every sense. It was a remarkable metamorphosis and the reason for it must have beenthat often elusive will-o'-the-wisp called confidence which was now flowing with abundance through every part of his being.

He did not leave this exciting form behind him at Headingley either, for he has kept splendidly here. He has shown a safe pair of hands when standing back and once or twice stretched himself to make some spectacular takes down the leg side. The aspect of his keeping which has been a revelation is the way in which he has coped with Ashley Giles when standing up to the stumps.

Jones scarcely made a false move and when Giles strayed down the leg side to the left-handers, Jones's footwork, invariably taking him into the right position, has been matched by his sure glovework. It is noticeable too that Jones is no longer making the crucial wicketkeeping mistake of getting up too soon. It is so important that a keeper should stay down until the last possible moment. This has always been a hallmark of the great wicketkeepers from Don Tallon and Wally Grout to Godfrey Evans, Alan Knott and the others.

One can only applaud the judgement of the England coach Duncan Fletcher in all of this, for it was he who was the principal voice in making the difficult decision to drop Read at the end of the tour to the West Indies - even though he might have been having his doubts after the recent Lord's Test.

David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, may have found the decision to leave Read out of the one-day squad yesterday extremely difficult to make, but after all of this it would surely have been impossible to omit Jones, not least because it might have dented this crucial, new-found confidence.

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