With a long career behind him, including 15 seasons with Kent and an infamous catch at Edgbaston to win the 2005 Ashes series, it’s hard to believe that the dream career end for wicket-keeper Geraint Jones would be winning a domestic one day trophy with a small side he had joined only a season earlier. And yet, a dream ending it seems to have been.
After a long career at Canterbury, Jones was sent on loan to Gloucestershire in 2014 because their keeper Gareth Roderick had broken his finger. Finding himself still at Bristol despite Roderick’s recovery, Jones stopped keeping wicket for the club but maintained his spot in the batting line up.
In July, Jones announced his retirement from first class cricket and in September it was revealed that he would move on from the professional game and instead take up a role as master of cricket at a school in Essex. The final of the Royal London One-Day Cup would be his last professional match before retirement.
Coming to the final at Lord’s on Saturday as underdogs, Gloucestershire had been largely dismissed by the media as a one-man side – and that one man wasn’t Jones.
While Michael Klinger is the man that everyone thinks of as key to the Gloucestershire line up, and there’s no doubt that his contributions have been colossal, the experience of Jones is also important. Indeed, Klinger fell for a duck on the day and it was the veteran that walked away with a half-century.
Having lost wickets faster than they would’ve liked, including that of Klinger, only Jones, Roderick and man-of-the-match Jack Taylor really put any runs on the board. After the final wicket fell to a questionable LBW call on David Payne, there were only 220 runs for Surrey to chase. Nobody thought it would be enough, including Jones.
“I must admit half-time was very nervous. I was very nervous that we were maybe 15 or 20 runs shy, especially with Sangakkara the way he’s been playing,” Jones told the press after the match.
“But then, once we got into it, I knew the way our spinners have been bowling all summer was exceptional and the wicket was going to be good for them.”
It was the unlikeliest of victories for the rather inexperienced side, especially after losing their star man early, but it was also a fairytale ending for one of cricket’s longest serving representatives. A touching standing ovation as he left the field, having being bowled by a Jade Dernbach yorker, might’ve been a decent enough send-off but Jones never gave up on the win.
“It definitely crossed my mind just what it would mean, not only to myself but also to my teammates.” He said.
“It’s been a bit of a thing I’ve been saying to myself this last couple of weeks, since we got to the knock-out stages – just dare to dream and who knows?”
“It couldn’t have worked out better, to be honest.”
Jones was part of the 2005 Ashes squad that won the series for the first time in 19 years. In 2006 he became the world record holder for the most test innings without having made a duck. In all, Jones played 34 tests, made one test century and six half-centuries. Nevertheless, the domestic cup victory with Gloucestershire has satisfied him as much as any other.
“It ranks up there with any other win,” he said, “Any time you win a trophy it’s huge. I’ve come to Lord’s and lost with Kent in 2008 and I know that feeling so it’s right up the top, purely for the fact that I was able to contribute.”
“This group of Gloucester lads that I’ve played with have added more than I could put into words. They’ve just made my last few months of cricket so enjoyable.”
“I just feel very lucky to finish this way. Very few people get the chance to walk off and lift a trophy and look back on such a great day.”
“To be able to finish this way with such a group, that I’ve enjoyed and who’ve given me such energy back to cricket this summer, it’s a real pleasurable way to finish. I couldn’t have asked for more.”