Simon Jones wanders out to bat at eleven in a late season YB40 match. The same time eight years ago he was playing in the Old Trafford Ashes Test match, just coming off his best Test figures of 6-53 in the first innings, and a day from perhaps his greatest wicket, bowling Michael Clarke, leaving a huge hooping inswinger, a ball bowled at his customary brisk pace that swung in from a foot outside off stump. One of the images of the summer.
So many of the greatest memories of the 2005 Ashes come from balls he bowled. Before he picked up one of so many injuries in the Fourth Test he was England’s best bowler. 18 wickets at 21, the lowest bowling average besides Shane Warne in the whole series.
His first ball here sees him do battle against the latest England fast bowling sensation. First ball, he creates a little room and slices him through the covers. I wonder whether he thought at all about the days eight years ago when he was that sensation. Finn has more Test wickets than he ever managed, yet he’s nothing like the bowler Jones was in his prime.
Jones manages five off two balls as Glamorgan bat first. Before he is brought into the attack, he chases a ball down to the boundary at fine leg, and pulls it back, in the old style, over-running the boundary. No slides for him. After what he went through in Brisbane, perhaps it’s understandable.
Seven overs in, with Middlesex at 32-3, he enters into the attack. The run up seems slower than 2005, but the jump, gather and hurl remain the same. His first ball was timed on the speed gun at 69.5 mph. It looked quicker. His second got a wicket, Morgan slugged one out to the deep cover fielder, who took a good catch diving forward.
It wasn’t that great of a ball, but his next was better, a seaming skiddy in-cutter, which rapped Adam Voges on the pads. Jones screamed, pure aggression seeping out of him, a proper fast bowler, defying the years. Hat-trick ball, raps John Simpson on the pad... the thigh pad, leg bye down to fine leg.
When he gets it full, batsmen are reluctant to come forward. The speed gun may only be registering in the low 80s, but with his skiddy action it seems faster. His first spell yields 2-7 off two overs.
He comes back for his second spell with a full toss, a grimace, and an apology. Very close to being a no ball. His third ball, a yorker is inside edge down to fine leg. Another grimace. He tries a slower ball, and it concedes two. Stick to the fast stuff he thinks, the next one is faster and fuller and over over mid off for four.
One more over, and after four he has figures of 4-0-17-2. Glamorgan close out a win comfortably enough in the end, and although it’s not the Ashes, Simon Jones is happy to still have the chance to run in fast. Will he make a comeback to First-class cricket? It’s doubtful at this stage, but given what a sight he can be at his best, one has to hope. His contract is up with Glamorgan, and he’s hopeful for another deal, but prepared to go elsewhere to keep playing cricket.
You have to hope he finds somewhere, and the spectacular sight of him bowling isn’t lost. When you’ve been through as many injuries as he has, it must be tempting to give up, do a bit of analysis work for Sky, find a new living. This fast bowler is more stubborn than that though.