Jackwas the last specialist Prior took the all-round
Peter Hayter, The Cricket Paper’s esteemed correspondent, looks back over his years of reporting on England Test cricket around the world and identifies the greatest players over this period. This week, wicketkeepers take centre stage
A supreme athlete and fastidious in practice and preparation as he was in all things – teammates joked he numbered his hairs so as to make sure they were never out of place – Stewart first took up wicketkeeping merely to add another string to his bow but he turned himself into a first-class gloveman, so effectively that any initial controversy over the decision for him to take over from Russell full-time soon subsided.
His agility and anticipation allowed him to cover large distances behind the stumps, one diving left-handed take to catch Brian Lara off the bowling of Darren Gough in 1995, during the period when England yo-yoed between him and Russell on a regular basis, was among the very best seen at Headquarters and helped England secure a rare victory over West Indies.
If his chat, possibly ingrained in him during winters spent playing grade cricket in Perth, occasionally grated, opponents always knew they had been in a battle.
Remarkably, at one stage he filled the roles of opening batsman,‘keeper and captain and a measure of his ability and stamina was that none of the disciplines suffered noticeably.
But as he neared 40, he was happy to slide down the order. In the end, as with the best, Stewart was only noticed behind the stumps when the suffered a rare lapse.
(Tests - 34, Runs - 1172, 100s - 1, Highest Score - 100*, Average - 23.92, Catches - 128, Stumpings - 5, Most dismissals (innings) - 6. Most dismissals (match) - 9.)
“Jones… Bowden… Kasprowicz the man to go, and Harmison has done it. Despair on the faces of the batsmen, and joy for every England player on the field.” – Richie Benaud, Channel Four, August 7, 2005.
If Geraint Jones had only held on to one catch in his Test career, the tumbling take to dismiss Michael Kasprowicz and secure England’s lastgasp victory in the second Ashes Test of 2005 would have been enough to earn him a place in the Pantheon.
The Edgbaston crowd, and what seemed like the whole nation, had been gripped by the drama from ball one of the best series ever played on home soil, and a thrilling win to draw level
Jack Russell called his autobiography Others suggested that it should have been called Geraint Jones
Agility and anticipation: Alec Stewart