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“One Ball At a Time” – Selfless Amy Jones Resurrects Herself Upon Self-Reflection

After a quiet T20I series against NZ, English Wicketkeeper Amy Jones finally came out with a blazing touch in the ODI series. She scored 190 runs in three innings including an unbeaten 92 in the first ODI, followed by 48 from 40 and 52 from 50 in the next two. In all three matches, she came out to bat at no 7 and still managed to become the highest run-getter of the series with an average of 95, earning her first Player of the Series in ODI’s.

“I think the highs and lows of cricket are always there. And it’s a hard game to play I think. You know people often say that you fail more than you succeed. Individually as a better, I think it’s important to enjoy every other aspect of the game as well. I have enjoyed training, Especially in more recent times, that’s something I have,  for whatever reason, whether I am just a bit older, I don’t know, that is something that I have enjoyed more.

I have tried to improve. I try to enjoy other teammates’ success, I think for a youngster that would be advice. You are a part of the team and especially batting can be so cutthroat really. So if you are a young batter it helps so much if you can enjoy other teammates’ success.  Someone gonna play well someday and that is very positive to lean to.”

Amy Jones’s career always has been an apostle of how cricket can be a bitter-sweet symphony. Coming to the ODI series, Amy Jones didn’t have a good outing in the T20I series. She scored only 23 runs in 4 innings, with a highest score of 9 and she threw her wicket in almost every innings.

Before that, in India, her scores were barely at par. She was quiet after the first match of the series where she hit a swashbuckling 23 from 9 with a strike rate of 255. Coming to bat at number 6, Jones hit 3 boundaries and a six to take the England score to 197, which England went on to win the match by 38 runs. It was followed by 5 and 25.

Chasing a modest total of 208, Jones came out to bat at no 7 when England was 58/5 in the 14th over. A couple of overs later Wyatt fell to Amelia Kerr. England was in tatters at 79/6. Though wickets kept falling she came out to bat with a positive mindset. Her target was to stay in the middle as the run rate was not that high and get some runs under her tally.

amy jones
Amy Jones

She said, “This inning is one of the most important innings of my career. It was a tricky situation to walk out into. I was trying to be there at the end, which I have been falling short of.”

After the T20I series, Jones reflected on her batting and found that rather than playing according to the merit of the balls she was trying to force for a boundary and that was not paying her well.

In the last week or so I have reflected on my batting or where I want to improve and focus. I worked around my mental game. I recognised where my mind was going.  In the self-reflection, I realised that I play my best game when I react to the ball. One ball at a time.” Jones said in the post-match press conference.

Along with Chalie Dean, Jones constructed her and England’s innings, ball by ball. Rather than going for the big hoicks to release the pressure, Jones found the gaps and manoeuvered the fields to find the singles and doubles in the initial stage. She reached the half-century in 51 balls, sending Tahuhu to the mid-wicket boundary. Her next 40 came from 32 balls. Unbeaten 92 from 83 balls with 10 boundaries, Jones secured a 4-wicket victory for England.

Both  Deano and I were reacting to each ball, respecting the good one and trying to cash in when we had the ball in our slott. we played with freedom and did what we set out to get.

Though Jones missed a deserving century, which could have been her first in international cricket, her 92* was the highest score for a batter coming at lower than no 5, while chasing a total. The 7th wicket partnership of undefeated 130 runs between Jones and Dean is the highest for the wicket in ODI’s.

In the next match, Amy Jones again chipped in with 48 from 40 balls with 7 boundaries to take the England total to way past the 250 runs mark. In the third match, her 52 from 50 was not enough to secure a clean sweep against the host, but again she was the highest scorer of the side. In all three matches, she came out to bat in a tricky situation when England’s middle order collapsed.

She had to bat with the English lower order and respond to the needs of the side as the last recognised bat. She accessed the situation and her partnerships with the likes of Charlie Dean and Kate Cross rescued England from further humiliation.

Apart from her 130-run stand with Dean for the 7th wicket in the first match, she added 55 runs with Kate Cross for the 9th wicket in the 2nd ODI. Eventually, England secured the series, winning that match by 56 runs. Her 73 runs stand with Dean in the third match helped England cross the 150 runs mark from 95/6 and once Jones fell at 168, England lost their remaining 3 wickets for 26 runs. Her 190 runs in 3 innings needed to be read in that context.

But this NZ series was not the first time that Jones’s career went through the whirlwinds.  She had made her debut almost a decade ago in India, in the World Cup,  as a replacement for legendary Sarah Taylor. But she didn’t know that she was making a debut until the last time.

Speaking about her debut in England colours she recalled, “I think my debut is definitely up there and I think that was a great experience. I loved that game. It came about quite the last minute, with Sarah Taylor obviously having a niggle and not playing, I think we found out the day before. So I was not expecting to play a game really in the whole World Cup. I was just there as a backup wicketkeeper. So, yeah sort of get that game under my belt and performing well with the bat gave me a lot of confidence as a young player.”

Amy Jones came out to bat at no 6 and before getting out to Siriwardene with 13 balls to spare, she chipped in 41 from 49 with 4 boundaries.

Taylor, whom Jones replaced in her debut match was asked in one of the interviews who is the most skilful cricketer in the team. She replied – Amy Jones. It is not easy for one to match the legacy of one like Sarah Taylor behind the wicket but Jones did a decent job in the absence of Taylor over the years. Once Taylor decided to call it a day, Jones who had been watching and learning from Sarah Taylor, most of her days grabbed the opportunity and her brilliance behind the stump made her an indispensable part of the English side.

Her techniques and glovework earned praise from legends like Jack Russell who once praised Jones by tweeting that she had a good technique and she looked sharp and natural behind the stump. Michael Bates – England’s fielding and wicketkeeping coach back then – lauded her as “technically, the best in the world within the women’s game”. Despite all these praises, her encounter with wicketkeeping happened all by accident.  Growing up with a variety of sports, football was her first love, before turning her focus onto cricket.

Amy Jones scored a hundred. (Image: X)
Amy Jones scored a hundred. (Image: X)

“Yeah, I have played a lot of different sports. I always have been sporty and started playing like a lot of other girls were. And in terms of wicketkeeping, that was all relatively late, maybe I think I was about 14 years old when it came about.  We were on a cricket tour to South Africa and we didn’t have a backup wicket-keeper. The day before our wicketkeeper got injured when she got hit by a ball in the face and we didn’t have a backup so the next time they were looking for one, I was fielded in that.

ALSO READ: NZ vs ENG: Amy Jones Star As England Register A Comfortable Win In The 1st ODI vs New Zealand

My bowling wasn’t very good so I think I was a natural choice. I was very lucky at Warwickshire to get the help of Tony Frost. He spent a lot of hours teaching me how to wicket keep basically. I was very fortunate as a 14-year-old to get access to that level of coaching at Warwickshire and am very grateful for that now.”

From just being a backup wicketkeeper, who felt surreal only to be there on the side, Jones got dropped from the national side and in a couple of years found herself opening the batting for England. A couple of ducks followed by a 94 against India in 2018 meant she was sent to open the batting with Tammy Beaumont as Lauren Winfield failed to give the desired start.  She scored 717  runs in 21 innings since her return to the top of the order.

Though she failed miserably in the series against India (17 runs in 3 innings in 2019) and against Australia (5 runs in 3 innings in 2019) that doesn’t undermine the fact 8 of her 13 career half-centuries were scored during this period, including 5 in 6 matches against Pakistan and West Indies. Throughout her career, Jones never got a settled batting position in white ball cricket, and she batted in almost every possible position to make room for others.

She batted in all the positions from 1-7 in ODIs and 1-9 in T20Is.  At the end of 2019, Danny Wyatt was given the task of opening the batting, she was pushed back to the middle order after her 5 in 3 innings in the 3Ashes, even though she was performing better while opening, rather than any other slot till then.

2018-2019 was the time when she came out of the shadows of her predecessor Sarah Taylor. Apart from the praises of the coaches and legendary wicketkeepers like Jack Russell for her glovework behind the wicket, her batting even in the shortest format of the games put her into recognition. In the 2018 semifinal against India, her controlled innings of unbeaten 53 from 47 and an unbroken stand of 92 for the 3rd wicket with Nat Sciver led England to the final. Jones has the best batting partnership average in T20I’s with Nat Sciver, 686 runs with an average of more than 38.

Both of them have rescued England from the spot of bothering- let it be their 78-run stand against India in Northampton in 2018 to take the score to way past 150 or the 100-run stand against Pakistan in the T-20 World Cup, last year, at Cape Town. One of the keys to this understanding in the middle hides in their relationship beyond the field. They have been friends for over a decade now, both of them quite calm and cool-headed and know each other very well.

Yeah,  Nat and I definitely do bat well together. When I walk out to bat and if Nat is out there, she greets me and  I always feel relaxed. I think we are similar people in that way, quiet calm and cool-headed, which helps out in the middle. So that’s probably why we had great success together,” Amy Jones added.

 Playing in leagues like KSL, Hundreds and Women’s Big Bash League has shaped her career and taught her to play with a lot of pressure. As an overseas player in WBBL or even in the Australian domestic structure, playing for Western Fury elevated Jones to a player where she can become more than herself taking more responsibility.

She stated, “I think they have been great for women’s cricket adding another dimension really in terms of franchise league attracts a lot of people to come and watch and you often play in front of a big crowd, and I guess as a player being an overseas player brings about other possibilities and responsibilities and that’s a great thing to go through and learn from experiences like that. So, Yeah, that’s great and everyone I know loves to play and be a part of that.”

These leagues not only witnessed Jones scoring runs for the respective sides but playing along with the other greats of the games had led to developing her skills as well. Jones topped the batting chart for her side Loughborough Lightning in the Kia Super League with 636 runs with a strike rate of 118. After KSL became defunct, Amy Jones continued her touches in The Hundred for Birmingham Phoenix. With 462 runs with a strike rate of 137, she remains the highest run-getter for her side in three years. Apart from her run spree in England, Jones also played for Sydney Thunders, Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers in the WBBL. With a strike rate of 122, Jones also had 5 half centuries, amassing 932 runs for Perth Schorchers.

Speaking about playing with Meg Lanning as her skipper and the opening partner in the Perth Scorchers in WBBL in 2018-2019, Jones mentioned that apart from how she liked batting with one of the modern-day greats it’s the attitude that Lanning carried with her is laudable. To her, opening with Lanning and making 5 century stands in 19 innings, amassing 880 runs was fun.

Amy Jones
Amy Jones

I loved playing in the Scorchers with Meg. We opened the batting together and had some success together there which was fun.”  But to get to know Meg Lanning off the field was incredible. “She has been an incredible batter you know, stats and everything else speak for themselves. But I think that she is the type of batter who even inspires others, inspires her opponents really, can’t be said for too many of us. So I think to be able to do that is a huge thing and she has done that multiple times,” Jones expressed.

Jones was once again in uncharted territory when she was given the responsibility to lead the inexperienced England side against India in 2022 in the absence of both Heather Knight and Nat Sciver-Brunt. Heather Knight was injured and Nat Sciver asked for a leave so when Jones was asked to lead a side her life turned again.

I think captaincy in general is not something that I have done in a huge amount. I think I was surprised, to be honest when they first asked me.”

Amy Jones had led only Central Sparks in the Rachael Hayhoe-Flint Trophy and Charlotte Edwards Cup. Besides she had led Birminham Phoeinex in the 2021 Hundreds. Before going down to Oval Invincible in the Eliminator, Jones scored 176 runs. Rather than the runs she batted with a strike rate of 156, the highest for her side. However, missing a few key players and leading a quiet inexperienced side was quite freeing to Jones as everyone wasn’t expecting much and Jones learnt a lot tactically from that series.

Yeah, It was great fun to be a part of it, definitely a challenge for me,  learnt a lot I guess, probably tactically, paying a lot more attention to that when you are a captain. So a lot of learnings from that and yeah, proud of that group as a whole for winning the T20I series. Young players really stepped up and it was great to see,” she shared.  

Though India thrashed England 0-3 in the ODI series, Jones led a comeback in the T20I series, clinching that series by 2-1. And that ‘freeing’ feeling played a crucial role in that comeback.

“I haven’t done a huge amount of it, I dont remember feeling any extra pressure. They say terms like captain innings, the captain taking more responsibility with the bat, but I think I just tried to do what I normally try to do and impact the game as best as I can,” Amy Jones concluded.

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