Keeper but Stewart and factor to new heights
seemed England’s for the taking when they reduced Australia to 175-8 in pursuit of 282.
The blood drained steadily, however, as Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Kasprowicz edged their side ever nearer the target, the final pair adding 59 runs, and only three were required for the Aussies to take a 2-0 lead even England captain Michael Vaughan conceded would have been unassailable.
But Jones, who had developed the knack of reading Steve Harmison’s bumper in advance, trusted his instincts, moved towards the leg-side early and was ready when Kasprowicz’s attempt at evasive action ended with the ball flicking off the No.11’s glove.
Jones recalled later:“I took the ball nice and clean, looked up at Billy (Kiwi umpire Bowden) and saw him nod, so I knew he was going to give it out. It took him some time to raise the finger, but I think that was because he was waiting for Kasprowicz to look up at him. Then all I can remember is giving some major stick to the Aussies in the crowd who had spent most of the last day giving me loads.”
One of the reasons was they regarded Jones as one that got away as, born in Papua New Guinea of Welsh parents, he had moved Down Under as a kid and grown up there, playing for the Queensland Colts in his late teens.
In that moment, however, in the eyes of all England supporters there was no question where Jones now belonged.The fact that Kasprowicz should have been reprieved because his glove was not attached to the bat at the time of impact was, and is still, regarded by all rightthinking people as a mere technicality.
(Tests - 79, Runs - 4099, 100s - 7, Highest Score - 131*, Average - 40.19, Catches - 243, Stumpings - 13, Most dismissals (innings) - 6. Most dismissals (match) 8.)
For the early part of his career, Matt Prior admitted, he paid far more attention to his batting than his wicketkeeping, treating that as “the other thing I did”.
A brilliant attacking run-scorer, when Peter Moores, his former teammate and coach at Sussex, took over the running of the national team from Duncan Fletcher, Prior was chosen ahead of Paul Nixon for the first Test of the 2007 summer against West Indies at Lord’s and he fully justified the decision when he became the first England ‘keeper to make a century on debut, from just 105 balls, going on to make126 not out.
But he soon found out that runs alone were not enough, and, after criticism of his on-field chat to the touring Indian team and a succession of poor displays with the gloves he lost his place to Tim Ambrose on the 2008 tour to New Zealand, the prospect of a premature end to his England career forcing him to reappraise and return to the drawing board to learn how to be a proper stopper.
Prior was rewarded when he returned for the series against South Africa the following summer, beginning intensive work on technique, positioning and footwork with former England man Bruce French that helped him improve sufficiently to become a three-time Ashes winner, in 2009, 2010-11 and 2013 and the heartbeat of the side that topped the world Test rankings in 2012.
Under skipper Andrew Strauss, who leant heavily on him for tactical advice, his partnerships with James Anderson, close friend Stuart Broad and, in particular, off-spinner Graeme Swann, were crucial to England’s success.
The end of his career was blighted by controversy over the Kevin Pietersen affair (Pietersen claimed the man known as cheese as in ‘The Big Cheese” was part of a culture of bullying inside the dressing room, a view only the disgruntled batsman seemed to hold) and injury as the constant strain on his Achilles of the physical demands of keeping wicket took their toll.
But at his best Prior was arguably England’s best ever wicketkeeper/batsman.
Remarkable at one stage Stewart filled the roles of opener, keeper and captain and none of the disciplines suffered noticeably Matt Prior
Instincts: Geraint Jones
Intensive work: Matt Prior