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The Definitive: Geraint Jones

Phil Walker by Phil Walker

This week’s Definitive comes from sparky Ashes-winning stumper Geraint Jones – the man who took that catch. He sat down with Phil Walker to relive the greatest moments from his career.

THE SHOT THAT STARTED IT ALL
Trial with Kent | Canterbury, 1998

After moving to Wales from Australia, the 22-year-old trainee pharmacist thought he’d try his luck by applying for county trials. “Leicester and Kent wrote back to me but then I heard nothing more from Leicester. I travelled to Canterbury in my pharmacy manager’s wife’s Ford Fiesta. The guy who was watching me, the 2nd XI coach, saw the first ball I faced to the spinner. I ran down the wicket and whacked it back past him, and he said if I hadn’t done that he wouldn’t have noticed me. At the end of 2000 I was offered a contract.”

THE INNINGS THAT SWAYED THE LOCALS
104 | Kent v Leicestershire, County Championship, Canterbury, 2003

Kent’s first game of 2003 was at home against Leicestershire, and Jones had just replaced Paul Nixon as the regular 1st XI wicketkeeper. “I’d just taken over from Nico who’d then moved to Leicester, and he scored a century in the first innings, but then I got a hundred in our second innings. I remember bringing up the hundred with a hooked six which dropped just over the boundary. To be able to add a ton of my own justified the decision by Kent.”

THE KNOCK THAT GOT THEM TALKING
108* | Essex v Kent, County Championship, Chelmsford, 2003

Jones’ introduction to England may not have come when it did if it hadn’t been for Kent’s meeting with Essex in 2003. “We played against Essex in a Championship match and Nasser [Hussain] was playing. Nass got a double hundred, but I got 80-odd in the first innings and was 100 not out in the second. He said he spoke to Duncan Fletcher and told him that I was someone to look out for. At the time they were looking for a keeper, so that match went a long way to helping me get on the England tour that winter.”

THE DEBUT BAPTISM
Brian Lara’s world record | West Indies v England, Fourth Test, Antigua, 2004

With England 3-0 up, Jones came in for Chris Read at Antigua, where Brian Lara made his 400. “It was a fantastic moment, standing behind the stumps for Lara’s world record. I could tell he had this look in his eyes. He was basically trying to save a whitewash. With so much at stake, with them potentially being 4-0 down, he was obviously not getting out, a legend like that has special determination.”

THE MAIDEN CATCH
First Test catch | England v New Zealand, First Test, Lord’s, 2004

Then came his first Test catch. “It was at Lord’s in 2004 and I caught Nathan Astle. I’ve got the gloves in my garage and I’ve written on the inside of them: ‘First Test catch’. It was pretty straightforward, even for me! I’d flown my father and brother over to watch and my brother has a fantastic shot of me throwing the ball up in the air.”

THE VIRTUOSO STUMPING
The stumping of Andrew Hall | South Africa v England, Second ODI, 2005

Jones seals a last-gasp England win with the superb stumping of Andrew Hall. “I remember it because, for me, I made the decisions. I knew Kabir [Ali] was bowling at the death, so I set myself up for a full over of yorkers. I took some fantastic catches one-handed [in my career], but I’ll always take that stumping. That’s one I look back on with pride because I did everything I wanted to.”

THE CATCH THAT CHANGED ENGLISH CRICKET
Catch of Michael Kasprowicz | England v Australia, Second Test, Edgbaston, 2005

The Edgbaston Test is remembered as one of the great matches in history. With Australia needing just two runs to win, Jones took the tumbling catch which won England the match, prompting a national summer-long party. “Obviously the Edgbaston catch to win the match was the massive moment of my career. I remember there was just a massive emotional release. Without that catch, it would have been 2-0 which we were probably not coming back from. Initially there was the thought that we’re done and dusted. Their victory target was coming down and down. There was a good section of the Aussie crowd and they’d been giving me a bit of stick. From ball one they were singing, and I remember the first time I heard that it didn’t sit well with me because I thought it was a bit of a sign, or an omen. As the target came down they got louder, and it naturally added a lot [of tension] to the morning. So when I took the catch I couldn’t resist giving them a bit back! That catch is never too far from my mind. There’s always something to trigger the memory. After the catch I had the stupid idea to hand the ball back to Billy Bowden. It’s quite a big regret I don’t actually have the ball. It’s out there in the big wide world somewhere, maybe secretly under Billy’s bed somewhere in New Zealand…”

THE GREAT ASHES CAMEO
85 | England v Australia, Fourth Test, Trent Bridge, 2005

At Nottingham in the pivotal Test, Jones’ 177-run partnership with Andrew Flintoff put England on course for an epic three-wicket win. “My proudest innings. I was under massive pressure but I was able to stand up and say that I deserved my spot. I felt in control throughout. It was only after Fred got out that I stepped it up, and I ended up getting out in a freakish way, going for a big hit and getting an inside edge onto my pad, with the ball looping up in the air. I still kick myself for not getting those extra 15 runs.”

THE DOMESTIC DREAM DAY
Winning the Twenty20 Cup | Gloucestershire v Kent, The Oval, 2007

Despite only scoring four against Gloucestershire, the Twenty20 final of 2007 remains a special day for Jones. “T20 Finals Day gets your heart racing, it’s a day you want to be part of. We had a good batting side, and Joe Denly and Rob Key were massive for us. And our bowlers did really well, I remember Ryan McLaren got a hat-trick in the final. We really gelled as a team that year.”

THE EVERGREEN STROKEMAKER
178 | Kent v Somerset, County Championship, Canterbury, 2010

After losing the gloves with England to Matt Prior, a move up the order for Kent paid off. Jones made over 1,000 runs in 2009 and his highest career score in 2010. “That knock against Somerset was very satisfying. It’s my highest score to date, and it was technically pretty controlled. I’ve learned a lot about my batting in recent years. At the back of my mind I wish I could have played like that a bit more at Test level.”

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