Skip to main content

Jones expects close Ashes battle as the two sides square up in 2009

Monday 6th July 2009

KENT wicketkeeper Geraint Jones (pictured) is anticipating another close series when England and Australia battle it out for the 2009 Ashes, starting tomorrow. Jones was a key part of the England side that won the Ashes in 2005 and expects this series to be just as tight but perhaps not as tense and exciting: “I cannot see a repeat of four years ago. That was such a great series. It had everything. This time around, I feel the two teams are very evenly matched. I think the games will all be quite close but nothing will compare to 2005 because it was such a great battle. I think the equal standards, of the two teams, will lead to a tight contest and I genuinely feel that England have a good chance.”

In 2005, the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Simon Jones and Matthew Hoggard were key performers. They took plenty of wickets with the ball and Jones feels that bowlers in this series will need to be equally impressive: “I think taking 20 wickets is hugely important and that is what we were so good at it in 2005. This current team will need to try and replicate what the boys did four years ago. There is definitely a lot of talent in the bowling ranks this time. I“m sure they will have worked on how to bowl out Australia twice and that is key for me.”

So how does this current Australia side compare to the class of 2005? The Aussies have rebuilt their side with Simon Katich and Phillip Hughes opening the batting, Brad Haddin taking over behind the stumps and Mitchell Johnson opening the bowling. Jones is predicting a competitive series, which begins in Cardiff tomorrow, but one that England are capable of winning: “I personally don“t feel they are as strong as they were but England would be wrong to underestimate them. They obviously don’t have the likes of Warne, McGrath, Langer and Hayden so they’re not going to be as good as they were, in 2005, but they recently beat South Africa and still have plenty of quality players. We lost the first Test in 2005 and everyone expected us to lose the series comfortably. This time around the teams are much more closely matched and, I would say, we are ahead in certain areas.”

So who will be the key performers in the series, according to Jones? “I think Kevin Pietersen is the main man. He may not have been in great form, just recently, but he always builds it up and performs on the big stage. He is determined to show what he can do and pressure seems to bring the best out in him. I also feel that Andrew Strauss will be another key player. It will be interesting to see how he goes as captain. Graeme Swann will also feel that he has a point to prove. He has bowled superbly well in recent times and has overtaken Monty (Panesar) as England“s first-choice spinner. The Aussies haven“t got a world class spinner, like they had in Shane Warne, so Swanny“s contribution could be crucial too.”

A lot has been made of the battle between the two captains. Strauss is looking to emulate the heroics of Michael Vaughan while Ponting will be looking to remain his composed and calm self. Jones believes that the Australian captain is still a fine leader: “Ricky doesn“t seem to let things faze him. He is so good at being able to put the captaincy to one side when he goes out to bat. As soon as he reaches the middle, he turns into the best batsman in the world. The Aussies are on about targeting Strauss, as he is the crucial link in our batting. If he doesn“t get off to a great start then I guess it might affect his captaincy. If he is not scoring runs then it could be interesting to see how he goes as skipper.”

Finally, many people have voiced their concerns at the first Ashes Test being played in Cardiff, rather than at it“s traditional home of Lord“s. Jones shares those sentiments: “In a way I“m glad, that Cardiff has got an opportunity to host Test match cricket, but I“m not sure the first Test should be played there. I have fond memories of walking through the Long Room at Lord“s and the members all backing us and giving us some great encouragement. I“m a traditionalist and feel that the first Test should be at Lord“s and the last at the Oval. Still, that“s not happening for this series so let“s hope that the pitch plays well, England perform and get off to a good positive start. If they do then we have a great chance of winning back the Ashes.”

Picture: Getty Images