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Ashes hero Jones says hit the Aussies hard

Paul Fletcher | 10:05 UK time, Sunday, 5 July 2009

At approximately 1055 BST on Wednesday the England team, either all 11 or just the two opening batsmen, will leave the home dressing room at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff.

They will turn left and head down a flight of stairs. They will then reach the players steps and make their way through the pavilion crowd and head on to the outfield for the opening session of the 2009 Ashes series.

But just how important is that opening session?

Simon Jones was there in 2005 when England took five Australian wickets in a first session at Lord's of almost unprecedented venom and intensity, not least as Steve Harmison struck both Justin Langer and Rick Ponting.

Jones puts it like this: "I remember watching the 1988 FA Cup final between Wimbledon and Liverpool. Vinnie Jones went straight through Steve McMahon. He did not see McMahon for the rest of the game. Jones made an impression on that game, he had upset Liverpool's midfield leader.

"I think that is what we did. We showed we were about. I think they had a bit of fear about them after that because we had shown we meant business and would be in their faces for the series."

Simon Jones is trying to rebuild his career at WorcestershireJones, Simon not Vinnie, took 18 wickets at 21 apiece in that series and remembers "Harmy bowling quick and pinging them for fun" in that first session but there was also a significance beyond the obvious that has stuck in his mind.

"We were pumped and said we were not going to take any prisoners," he told me. "The Australians looked ruffled that we had not gone to check on them (when they had been hit) - not like the supposedly soft English they had played against before."

And it's true. I've just watched a replay of Harmison striking Ponting in the face with a short ball, drawing blood. No England players go near him apart from Ian Bell, who scuttles past the Aussie skipper from his short leg position to retrieve the ball.

In other words the opening session in Cardiff will be about making a statement of intent, one that will resonate through the series. Don't forget, England lost heavily at Lord's but nonetheless England felt they had made a point.

Jones has not played Test cricket since the fourth match of 2005's glorious Ashes summer, his career undermined by a series of injuries and he left Glamorgan for Worcestershire in 2007. As a proud Welshman he would love nothing more than to be playing in Cardiff but he is recovering from another bout of surgery and will have to be content to watch from the stands. He has already had five or six invites from friends and former Glamorgan colleagues.

Shane Warne recently labelled the decision to move the first Test away from Lord's as a "disgrace" but Jones is confident that playing the match in Cardiff will pay dividends.

"I think the Aussies will be made to feel really uncomfortable whereas at Lord's they kind of appreciate cricket more. There would not be as much stick flying around for the away team," said Jones.

"When we have toured in Australia we have had enough stick off the ground and that is their job in a way. I am sure the Cardiff boys will be backing England 100%."

He will be a hugely proud man to see an Ashes Test in Wales but nonetheless he will always retain a special memory of his walk through the Long Room at Lord's on that sunny June morning four years ago.

"No offence to the guys there but they are normally quite stuffy old gentleman," said the 30-year-old. "That was the first time I had ever seen them give us a massive pat on the back and huge support. It was unreal, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. It was the most incredible feeling I have ever had in my life. I will never forget it."

England, coached by Duncan Fletcher, went into that series rich in self belief. They had won all seven home Tests in 2004, beat South Africa 2-1 over the winter and defeated Bangladesh 2-0 before the Ashes started.

Jones reckons they were brimming with confidence and without the scars of previous Ashes defeats inflicted on previous England sides. "We were young and hungry, strong and fit - and we feared nobody," said the fast bowler.

The Worcestershire bowler thinks he can see similarities with this summer's England team even though the current vintage has certainly not had the steady, consistent build up that Michael Vaughan's England enjoyed. Results have been patchy over the last year, with victory over New Zealand followed by defeat to South Africa and in the West Indies before a recent return to form against the Windies on home soil.

Andrew Strauss is the team's third captain during that period, while coach Peter Moores has been replaced by Andy Flower. But the team has a more settled look about it now and Jones has been particularly impressed by the maturity of James Anderson, the progress of Stuart Broad and the competitiveness of Graeme Swann. He is also still in regular contact with Kevin Pietersen, his mate from 2005 who has a huge role to play this summer.

"You can see from the side at the moment that they have a similar kind of attitude to ours, they are young and fearless and I think that holds well from the summer," added Jones.

The balance is to not be complacent yet at the same time remain convinced in the probability of victory. "As long as we stay strong and together we will be fine," mused Jones.

Simon Jones dismissed Michael Clarke with an outstanding delivery during the 2005 Ashes seriesIt is a huge loss to English cricket that Jones has not played a Test since 2005. His mastery of reverse swing caused the Australians all sorts of problems back then; witness Jones' delivery to Michael Clarke at Old Trafford, to which the Aussie shouldered arms and promptly lost his off stump.

Jones was genuinely taken aback by how much trouble reverse swing caused such a seasoned and accomplished team. "I was quite shock by how we exposed them so easily," he said.

But his favourite memory of that summer does not involve sending the cricket ball swinging the wrong way - quite the reverse.

"My 5-44 at Trent Bridge was my highlight because everyone had labelled me a one trick pony. I got those five wickets through conventional swing and proved the doubters wrong."

He told me that his biggest regret as a player was never playing against Steve Waugh. He finally did so last year in a far from serious match in the US known as the Hollywood Ashes.

I suspect that deep down his biggest regret must be one that many England fans would share - namely that his long history of injury problems have restricted him to 18 Test appearances, the last of which was the aforementioned Trent Bridge contest.

He could so easily have been a key component of England's attack for most of this decade, the main man for England this summer.

His loss is England's loss - and any hope of a comeback was recently extinguished with the news that yet another knee injury has ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Jones is out of contract with Worcestershire at the end of the season and there must doubts over his future in the game.

But as a true optimist he is already plotting his next return to action and it goes without saying that he is tipping England to regain the urn this summer, 2-1, for the record, just like in 2005.


  • Comment number 1.

    England always highlight the start of the Ashes test 2005 at Lords, but did everyone forget England got thumped in that Test? And very little on BBC of the LAST series result..remember5-0? Amazing how selective English memory is.

  • Comment number 2.

    That is true jdwiskey, I was thinking that myself.

    Still it is a shame Jones is not fit. I'd like to see Australia beat a full strength England team. I all too well remember the sorry excuses trotted out when England were embarrassed in Australia in the last Ashes series: "If only X were fit, ...." where X is Tresco, Jones, or Vaughan...

    I, on the other hand, think 2005 would have been quite different but for a certain key bowler stepping on a ball just before the second Test.

  • Comment number 3.

    in my opionion jones won us the ashes. its so sad that injury has ruined an oustanding prospect

  • Comment number 4.

    Yes indeedy.... when it comes to those Aussies...hit em a crack and make em squeal!!!
    Not impossible to see Simon Jones playing for England again next year. Robin Jackman came back to play at 34/35 years of age!...But he has spent so long away from the game one feels the odds are gainst it and England are getting together a decent cluster of bowlers now anyway. He will always have the legacy of 2005 to be proud of.

    Can hardly wait for Wednesday.....lets hope the lads can be proud of 2009 too!

  • Comment number 5.

    JustMyCorrectOpinion, you criticise making excuses for losses based on having injured players before saying McGrath's injury 4 years ago is the reason for the Aussie's loss. Make your mind up.

  • Comment number 6.

    Now then,

    Thanks for your posts. I understand what people say when they talk about the last Ashes series - which England lost 5-0 and seems to have been forgotten over here (in England). Lets see what happens this summer and then revisit the whole subject.

    I personally think the it is a tragic loss to English (and Welsh) cricket that Jones has not played a Test since back in 2005. And if you are wondering how important Jones was in 2005 have a look at this interesting article from former England coach Duncan Fletcher. I think it is a brilliantly insightful read.

  • Comment number 7.

    jdwiskey must agree with you here. I was watching cricket writers on TV on sky this morning and then the announcement of the sqaud after and you have thought that this is the first time we have played australia at test cricket since 2005.

    IMO it seems as if the people at the top of the table in english cricket have not moved on from a series that is 4 years old now.

    We have got worse and have not progressed as a team since that period.

  • Comment number 8.

    Jonah is an absolute legend.

    He'll always be remembered as a hero from '05.
    I'm gutted he hasn't featured since then, but I am delighted to say that I played alongside him in the Hollywood Ashes victory over Steve Waugh's XI.
    Jonah lead the bowling with Rob Key opening the batting.
    Former W.I. test bowler Franklin Rose hit the winning runs for England (don't ask) as the Aussies were humiliated again in front of a packed crowd at Woodley Cricket Fields in Los Angeles.
    Hollywood Ashes 2008 Gallery:

    Wishing Jonah all the best for the future.

    David Collicutt
    British & Dominion Cricket Club
    Los Angeles

  • Comment number 9.

    Simon I heard is practicing privately in Yorkshire - H ehas recently hit 220 KM/Hour speeds - He plans to tocuh 300 KM/Hour and then declare himslef fit

    But he may be wrong - Aussies have practiced with bowling machines that can hurl at 400 KM/Hour and the Aussies have hit these pace deliveries easily for boundaries n the front foot

  • Comment number 10.

    Such a pity Jones got injured, he might have gone on to great things and our team with him because his attitude was just what we need in players: feisty, competitive and in the opposition's face. Without Warne & McGrath this series is ours to lose...which I fully expect us to go and do!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Read comments above with interest. I'm an ex-pat living in oz for the last 10 years. Boy, have i taken some shellacking over that time. Only payback was 2005...and how i savoured that. One thing about the aussies - they can dish it out but they cannot take it.
    I see a lot of the aussie cricket and here's my tips on how to not lose the series.

    1) Like Simon Jones said, "hit them hard straight away" - let them know they are in for a royal battle - bugger the result - just soften them up.
    2) Never mind Hughes - Katich is the linchpin to their opening stand - he comes across as a dour old fashioned opener from yesteryear - but once he gets past the first 10 or so overs he scores quickly - he's also desperate to make amends for his last outing in England. I'm a sad sac and have watched hours of slo-mo on the guy. He has a massive step across to his off stump just as the bowler is in his delivery stride. This places him in perfect position to play a ball bowled on off as a simple cover drive. If the bowler tries to change at the last minute and puts it on middle and leg he clips it away off leg.
    The way to get him out is to play him at his own game. Give him an over or two where he can play this way - then a few bouncers - (this makes him think he has the wood on the bowler) and then a fast yorker or full toss speared in at leg stump. The bowler has to be quick and precise - but it will work a treat.
    3) Ponting & Hussey are out of form - so don't let them settle.
    4) There's friction amongst some of the team with Clarke - especially Katich - Play on this on the sledging.
    5) Johnson is prone to injury (as is Lee) if they're bowling good - keep them out and wear them down.
    6) And lastly, get the hands around their throat and when they begin to weaken, grip even tighter - because if England ever release that grip they'll be back at you twice as hard.

  • Comment number 12.

    england have lost so many good bowlers to injury in the last decade and a half, or had their skills diminished by injury; gough, headley, fraser, cork had some problems too. simon jones offered the raw materials to destroy teams though, he promised so much and was beginning to deliver, with the pace of harmison, the aggressive intent of flintoff and the swing of anderson. we miss him so much - he was a top notch entertainer and could have spared us much of the last 4 years, which have largely been england floating aroung rudderless.

    i really hope simon jones gets back to fitness and gets back into the england side, this is largely wishful thinking and the only glimmer of hope i see is that he has endless courage. he has needed it.

    could be a good coach for the future though...

  • Comment number 13.

    i will never forget seating listening to the radio with jones run up to bowl and the roar of the crowd behind him. it is a massive shame that he could not continue playing for england.

    i also now live in australia and moved here just after the 2007 white wash. australian are the first to give but are the worst at taken it. they are always complaining about something. their behavour after losing the rugby league world cup was not good. they coach had to quit his post after comments that were said.

    i hope this series will be a bit more even than last. australia are not the team they used to be. you cant lose two of the best bowlers ever from a squad and not struggle

  • Comment number 14.

    It is indeed a shame for this wholehearted and skillful bowler that once again he is sidelined. Though there must be clouds of doubt hanging over his future as a player, I would not write him off. How I'd love to see him back!

    When the England team left for Australia in 2006, pundits were expecting a close series: I on the other hand feared the worst. Michael Vaughan had 'out-captained' Ponting in 2005, and he was not on the plane; neither was Marcus Trescothick. Most important of all though - neither was Simon Jones. Andrew Flintoff was the 2005 headliner, but without Jones, England would not have won The Ashes that year.

    I remember of course his 18 wickets in four test matches, but my abiding memory will be of Jones hurling the ball at Hayden's stumps in an ODI and standing his ground as the burly Australian walked towards him. Hayden finally had to turn tail - the bully had met his match. That set the tone for the 2005 series..............wonderful stuff!

  • Comment number 15.

    As an Englishman and massive cricket fan I too have been shocked as to how little coverage the last series has got. It's like 2005 was the last series played and the media has completely forgotten about all cricket in between; the fact we lost in Windies, lost to S. Africa last year, scraped a victory against NZ playing pretty poorly and got thumped 5-0 Down Under for the first time ever.

    This hasn't stopped me getting very excited and genuinely hopeful of an England win, but the classic English / British attitude of "build em up to knock em down" is rife again. It's a decently matched series in prospect, but let's not build England up to be something they're not. They are a decent side with a good chance of winning. So, let's not give them a ticker-tape parade if they win and let's not crucify them if they lose.

    I fear my words are wasted though!!

  • Comment number 16.

    The disappointment following on from 2005 is that rather than continue to improve what was an excellent team, England peaked during the ashes and have been in decline or transition ever since. Initially a lot of that was down to injuries and availability of players (including Jones) but issues with the coaching staff, multiple captains and team dicipline have taken their toll.

    Ironically, although they recovered to whitewash england in 2006/7, Australia have also declined since, hence there is a perception that England stand a chance. Therefore even if the series is as close and as dramatic as last time, I very much doubt that the stand of play will be of the same quality.

  • Comment number 17.

    Where's the Aussie finger? Where's the flags?

  • Comment number 18.

    Simon Jones' talents have been massively missed by England since the Ashes in 2005. Gutted for him, it must be soul-destroying to keep picking injuries up when you're on the brink of fitness.

    As for playing the first test away from Lords, I think it's a big miss. Cricket is synonomous with its past and having the first test at the 'home of cricket' really brings it to the nation's awareness that the greatest cricket series on earth is to start. I can't help but feel that the Ashes is above tinkering with, sorry Cardiff.

    Vote on your star Ashes man at...

  • Comment number 19.

    Simon Jones was never in contention for this ashes series. Can we stick with today. Its England today that matters not what happened yesterday.
    I think being forced to listen to the Welsh National Anthem is an insult it should be God save the Queen for the Ashes. Terrible insult this.

  • Comment number 20.

    Noone is forcing you to listen to our National Anthem about you stick your fingers in your ears, poke out your tongue and shake your head back and fore until its over.

    There we go, its all over now.

    Wales And England for a sneaky 3-0!!!!


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