The TestMartin Chandler |
Author: Jones, Simon
Publisher: Yellow Jersey Press
Rating: 4 stars
I can’t imagine there will ever be a better series than the 2005 Ashes, and it quickly spawned a number of books. There were several by professional writers, the best of which were written by those masters of their craft, David Frith and Gideon Haigh. Amongst the English side Andrew Flintoff and Michael Vaughan, as well as coach Duncan Fletcher all gave their names to books about the series.
The reports that Haigh and Frith produced were excellent, and there were some interesting insights from those involved in their books, but it has never occurred to me to go back to them. If I want to wallow in the nostalgia of that remarkable series of Test matches, which from time to time I do, I will dust off the DVD player and watch the games rather than read about them. The cricket itself was so spectacular it never occurred to me there was any other way to do it.
For one, and only one, of the combatants 2005 marked the end of his Test career. Simon Jones missed the final Test at the Oval when the Ashes were finally reclaimed. But before an ankle injury ruled him out of that he, with his reverse swing and aggression, had done as much as anyone on the England side to finally stop the Australian juggernaut.
Ten years on from the events that defined his career Jones has produced an autobiography. As all such books do there is a chapter about his early years, and how this son of an England fast bowler first matched the deeds of his father and then exceeded them. Sadly he went on to share the same sense of frustration at the impact of a series of injuries that blighted his time in the game and eventually ended his career. It is clear he regrets not ‘taking a view’ in the same way that father Jeff did, and sparing himself and his family a difficult few years as he struggled unsuccessfully to regain sufficient fitness to remain in the game.
It seems like a long time since we last saw Jones on the field, as he fought his long and unequal battle. He played but a solitary First Class match in 2010, another in 2011 and a last one in 2012. There were rather more games in the shorter formats, but the last of those was in 2013 and when he did crop up on my television screen he never did look like the 2005 model. But it is fair to say that Jones does not dwell on his misfortunes, and in any event the vast majority of the book is the story of that iconic series, and in that respect it is an excellent account.
The player diary type of tour record is not generally the best. The constant use of nicknames and the obvious constraints on complete openness that are imposed by their contracts is a large part of the reason for that, and on many occasions the writing leaves something to be desired. It cannot however just be the impressive manner in which Jon Hotten has marshalled Jones’ thoughts that makes The Test such a compelling read.
There is nothing in The Test that immediately struck me as something the ECB would have strongly objected to, and none of Jones’ teammates will be troubled by what they read, so perhaps the explanation is as simple as Jones having had ten years to reflect on the events of that summer. This is a superbly crafted account which brilliantly captures how the English players thought and felt about the events of that historic series as they unfolded. It is not at all like any of the books that were published at the time, and for anyone who thinks that after all these years there is nothing new to say about that iconic series, my advice is to think again.