News by Neil Robinson 12/01/04
Just 14 months on from that horrific knee injury during The Ashes Series in the Brisbane Test Match, Glamorgan fast bowler Simon Jones has been given an opportunity to make a swift return to England colours after the selectors decided to hold a place open for him in the England squad to tour the West Indies from the end of February. Jones’ place on the tour remains subject to his proving his fitness on the forthcoming academy tour of India, but this seems unlikely to prove a major obstacle.
Although Jones has yet to play in a first-class match since his injury, he did turn out on a couple of occasions for Glamorgan seconds during the 2003 English season and has regularly been terrifying batsmen in the nets at the National Academy in Loughborough this winter.
While Jones can be fairly confident of resuming his career without too much concern for his fitness, his ability to slot back into the England team without much in the way of match practice must be in greater doubt. For this reason the academy trip to India, seen primarily as a vital learning exercise for the young spinners in the party, will be of great value to him. Jones’ lengthy recouperation period has not been wasted. By all accounts as much attention has been paid to remodelling his bowling action as to strengthening his knee, and a slightly longer run up and an action more similar to Brett Lee’s have resulted. The original, flawed action, which placed a great strain on the body in the search for extreme pace and came with a falling away of the head which prejudiced accuracy, was the young paceman’s greatest obstacle to a successful career. The new improved version will be fascinating to see.
Jones’ extra pace and ability to generate reverse swing will be vital to the strengthening of a seam attack which looked disappointingly toothless on the recent trip to Sri Lanka. Steve Harmison’s recovery from the back strain which forced him to miss that tour will further improve English hopes and the prospect of these two young pace stars bowling together for the first time in a Test is one to whet the appetite. Andrew Caddick’s hopes for a return to Test cricket following major back surgery last year have failed to materialise, however. Caddick, who at 35 cannot have time on his side, had earmarked the Caribbean trip as a target for his recovery, but progress has been slow and the Somerset veteran has only just started jogging again. He will have to reset his sights upon the new English season in April and hope that the young England attack does not come of age so decisively that the selectors then feel he is surplus to requirements.
The rest of the squad contains few surprises. James Anderson and Matthew Hoggard make up the seam contingent, Richard Johnson and James Kirtley missing out. Nasser Hussain has fended off the few quiet calls for his head and looks set to make further progress towards his goal of playing 100 Tests. Robert Croft’s suprise retirement from international cricket last week guaranteed Gareth Batty’s place as junior spinner and Rikki Clarke wins another trip as reserve all-rounder. The one-day squad sees just one change, the mercurial Vikram Solanki paying the price for his poor returns in Bangladesh.
The Test squad fly out at the end of February to play four Tests, the first of which starts on March 11th in Jamaica.