Confident, comfortable Amy Jones keen to build on promising start to the summer

Amy Jones plays shot through the leg-side. © Getty Images

England wicket-keeper Amy Jones said Wednesday’s (July 14) must-win T20I against India is perfect preparation for a high-pressure year ahead with an Ashes series, a World Cup defence and a Commonwealth Games on the horizon. While she would have preferred to have wrapped up the series against India at Hove on Sunday (July 11), Jones feels that the decider at Chelmsford will offer the team ideal experience of playing in another high-intensity fixture.

An England win would mean the hosts win the multi-format series 10 points to six, while an Indian victory would see the series shared with both teams finishing with eight points.

“It definitely feels like a must win game for us,” Jones told Women’s CricZone. “We’re going to have a lot of high-pressure games over the next six months to a year with the Ashes and the World Cup. Every game is so important in those tournaments. So, I think as a team, this is another great chance to perform well under pressure and get another experience of playing in a must-win game under our belts.”

Last year Jones was asked to take on a new role batting at No.5 in the England T20I line-up instead of the opener’s berth she had occupied for much of her career. Her innings at Northampton in the first T20I against India last Friday (July 9) was another sign that she has fully found her feet in the England middle order.

When she joined Natalie Sciver at the crease, the England allrounder was already in full flow with the bat and on her way to posting England’s joint fastest half-century in the shortest format.

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Although Jones took nine balls to register her first boundary, she then reeled off three fours in an over from Radha Yadav. Her final tally of 43 from just 27 balls included four boundaries and two sixes as she too looked to be aggressive and not simply feed Sciver the strike. It’s an approach that suits both her and the team.

“Yeah, it’s definitely encouraged. We’re all told to go out and back ourselves, play to our strengths, all of those things really,” she explained.

“So, I think personally, in that game, I went out there, and the first few runs came a bit hard. And Nat was obviously making it [look] very easy at the other end. So, I did feel a bit like, ooh, I need to get on with this! And sometimes, just taking on the boundary option is a good option, just taking the positive [options] or being brave, when it’s not feeling quite right.”

“Then, after I hit the first boundary, it sort of clicked and felt a lot easier. So, it was great to have that partnership with Nat and it was really enjoyable. I think we both played quite differently as well.”

She has found that life at No.5 is an ideal fit for her game and her personality.

“The field’s spread, so it’s often a bit easier to start if you take the singles, just to get into the innings, and then you kind of accelerate pretty quickly in an ideal world.”

“So, I’ve enjoyed coming in at five and in the middle. I think also it’s worked for me because I’m a player that can get a bit caught up in technique and sometimes opening the batting, you kind of want to do the same thing all the time.”

“Like, you start in almost exactly the same [situation as an opener]. Whereas that’s what I’ve liked about coming in in the middle [order], the game dictates how you need to play. You’ve got to react to the situation and that sort of takes my mindset a bit more external and less thinking about technique and stuff like that you don’t want to be thinking about in the middle.”

Jones’ knock on Friday was brought to an end by a stellar piece of fielding by Harleen Deol on the long-off boundary – an effort the 28-year-old was able to admire, even if it meant her own innings was cut short. Deol caught the ball, threw it in the air as the momentum carried her over the rope and then stepped back inside to take a brilliant diving catch. The moment quickly became a viral sensation.

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“It was brilliant catch, wasn’t it? It’s just great for the women’s game.”

“The standard across all skills has obviously increased, but I think fielding in particular, there’s been some really good fielding throughout this series and it’s brilliant to see it all over Twitter even though it was obviously my wicket!” she laughed.

“It was obviously a great showcase for women’s cricket and it’s great to see that it’s got the media attention as well. Hopefully some people who saw it who wouldn’t necessarily have watched the game.”

Jones started the English summer in sparkling form for her domestic side Central Sparks in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy posting 114 in the opening game against Northern Diamonds. She followed that up with a remarkable career-best 163* against a Western Storm attack including Anya Shrubsole and Heather Knight. Her runs came from just 114 balls with 17 fours and a six and gave her a massive confidence boost heading into the multi-format series against India.

“It’s brilliant, having the Rachael Heyhoe Flint competition because the standard has increased massively from county cricket and obviously playing at big grounds it’s a lot more similar, it’s like closing the gap between international cricket [and domestic cricket].”

“It’s great to play in a strong competition where there’s pressure on you and you get similar feelings. So yeah, I was really happy to do well in those three games and help Central Sparks start the season well.”

© Getty Images

Amy Jones has been exceptional behind the stumps through the multi-format series. © Getty Images

In addition to her performances with the bat, Jones’ silky glovework during this series has been testament to the amount of hard work she has put in with England wicket-keeping coach Michael Bates.

“It’s brilliant having Batesy around. He’s here pretty much full-time with us now. So, for me, that’s brilliant. And obviously having him around a lot more I can just focus on that really well, which is great.”

“I feel like my ‘keeping is going in the right direction. Obviously, it’s not an easy skill, so there’s always going to be up and down days, but it definitely feels with Batesy around, that I’m only going to get better.”

Before the T20I and ODI series against New Zealand in September, attention turns to The Hundred. Playing regulations for the new tournament have just been published and players are busy getting their heads around the changes and nuances of the format. Jones, too, is looking forward to testing herself against some of the best players in the world over the next month.

“Once we get started, I don’t think it will feel too much different to play in. The skills will be the same and once you get over the changes in rules, I think it just be a great standard of cricket. Hopefully, there will be lots of support and it should be a brilliant tournament.”