Bashed but not broken, Jones dreams of England

Updated: Feb 01, 2011, 11:22 AM IST

Birmingham: Simon Jones, a fast bowler whose England Test career was halted in its prime by one debilitating injury after another, wakes to a daily routine of strengthening exercises and icing his battle-weary limbs.

He is the virtually forgotten spearhead of his country`s glorious 2005 Ashes triumph over a previously dominant Australian team but at 32 refuses to believe his days representing England are over.

True, Jones has accepted that the rigours of five-day Test cricket are now more than his battered knees and ankles can stand but international one-day and Twenty20 cricket, he says, are still well within his range.

"I don`t think I would ever hang my international boots up, not until I`m 40-odd. You never stop believing," Jones told Reuters in a telephone interview.

He is understandably buoyant despite the almost relentless injury setbacks since the fourth Test against Australia six years ago this summer which marked his last England appearance.

He has just returned home from a domestic Twenty20 event in the Caribbean in which he finished joint top wicket-taker for his adopted English county side, Hampshire.

Jones claimed 12 wickets in the tournament including an inspired four for 10 from his four overs against Barbados. Hampshire eventually lost in the final.

"It was one of those spells you see people bowl on TV and you wonder how they do it," Jones said, warmed by the memory. "It was an amazing feeling because as a bowler in Twenty20 you are always on the back foot -- batsmen play with no fear."

Turned Sour

In his prime, Jones was a handful for anyone with his devastating late swing. He helped England to a national record eight consecutive Test wins in 2004 and followed up as part of the 2005 Ashes-winning team against a dominant Australia.

Then it all turned sour.

After an initial ankle injury, serious knee troubles requiring multiple operations threatened his career all together.

Ironically, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff from the triumphant `05 team have been forced into premature retirement because of knee injuries.

Welshman Jones, who lives on England`s south coast with his girlfriend and two sons, has trained tirelessly to avoid the same destiny.

"You get your dark days, real hard days and it`s a horrible place to be," Jones said.

"You just have to keep your chin up, keep looking ahead and thinking about the future rather than what`s gone on in the past.

"If you don`t focus on the light at the end of the tunnel you might as well pack it in. But I will never give up until I can`t physically do it.

"You have to listen to your body but I won`t stop trying to be the best that I can be. I`ve always promised to give myself the best chance and see where it takes me."

Match-Winner

He has played just 16 four-day matches in the last five seasons from a possible 80, though his 42 wickets at an average of 18.02 in his nine games for Worcestershire in 2008 show he had not lost his ability to bowl reverse swing at pace.

With this background, realistically it would seem unlikely Jones would cope with the rigours of five-day cricket and add to his 18 Test appearances.

But on the evidence of his performances in the Caribbean, England may have an experienced match-winner to call upon for limited overs cricket.

Jones maintains he wants to continue to play the longer form of the game, and is confident his pace can still make life uncomfortable for batsmen.

"You don`t lose pace, it`s just whether you can sustain it long enough," he added. "I hit 91, 92mph last year.”

"It`s a tough ask to bowl quick so when you get people like Shaun Tait bowling 95-plus it`s a bit of a joke, because you don`t realise how hard that is. I will never lose pace -- I just need to keep my body fit and strong."

Jones watched England`s recent Ashes win and said he has learned over the years not to think "I could be there".

Still, it is the euphoric Ashes memories that motivate and drive him towards an international career again.

"To play in the Ashes is the pinnacle, you can`t beat that feeling," Jones said. "But I need to just look at what I have in front of me."

Bureau Report