G. Jones returns for 1st Test

The tussle for supremacy continues in the corner of England wicketkeepers. Geraint Jones will be reinstated with the gloves for the first Ashes Test match, according to coach Duncan Fletcher.

Jones was displaced by Chris Read against Pakistan during the English summer, following a prolonged period of poor form. But the dismal performance of Read in the Champions Trophy in India has swung the tide back in the favour of the Kent wicketkeeper.

“At this stage we’re convinced that Jones will be a better prospect for batting at number seven,” said Fletcher in an interview with BBC Sport.

Though Read contributed well on his return to the Test side earlier this year (scoring 38, 55 and 33 in his 3 innings), he has since struggled with both bat and gloves. His poor form sunk to a low in the Champions Trophy, when he kept wicket poorly and scored just 6 runs in 3 innings.

The role of wicketkeeper has been problematic for England since the retirement of Alec Stewart, and no one has as yet emerged as a dominant candidate. Jones has been the wicketkeeper of choice for England’s two warmup games in Australia to date, including the 3-day match involving New South Wales, in progress. Also in his favour is his stance as the man behind the stumps during England’s 2-1 Ashes triumph last year. And with 11 days to go before the first Test, England will be hoping he can recapture the form that initially propelled him into the team in 2004.

Fletcher has suggested that Jones’ style of batting is more suited to Australian wickets, and his presence in the lower order would provide more strength than that of Read. The move opens up the possibility of England playing two spinners, with the inclusion of both Monty Panesar and the returning Ashley Giles.

“It’s going to be a difficult decision and we are looking at playing two spinners in most of the Tests,” Fletcher said.

Given the recent poor form of England’s seamers, and the emergence of Panesar as a potent attacking option, the double-spin attack may be the best option. Sajid Mahmood and James Anderson have struggled for consistency, and Steve Harmison has struggled in general in recent times. Matthew Hoggard has not bowled in a competitive match in over two months and captain Andrew Flintoff is returning from injury.

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