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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Kent's late bloomer
By Oliver Brett

Geraint Jones
Jones plays one of his favourite pull shots
Ed Smith has been the Kent batting star this season, no question about it, with six centuries in as many matches and the first man to hit 1,000 first class runs.

But the county's wicket-keeper Geraint Jones is well above Smith in the County Championship averages.

Before he was out for five against Essex on Wednesday, Jones averaged a lofty 65.41 - sixth in division one - wedged between the mighty Surrey and England duo Mark Butcher and Alec Stewart.

And yet until the start of the season, Jones, now 27, had hardly played for Kent or been involved in any first-class cricket.

Jones was born in Papua New Guinea but speaks with an Australian twang.

"I went to Australia when I was six so that's where I started playing cricket," he explains in an interview with this website.

"I grew up in a little town called Toowoomba but moved to Brisbane when I was 17 for my last year of school.

"I started playing grade cricket there from the age of 18."

Jones is qualified to play for both England and Australia, but he is in no doubt which he would choose.

Geraint Jones
Certain balls other people might defend I look to score runs from
Geraint Jones

"I've lived in the UK for the last five-and-a-half years. I would want to play for England that's where I'm heading."

He came into the Kent side in 2000 after initially settling in south Wales - where his name would suggest he has his family roots.

Jones says: "I played a couple of years for Abergavenny. Through that I met Mark Wallace the Glamorgan keeper.

"He basically told me Steve Marsh was coming towards the end of his career at Kent and suggested there might be an opportunity there."

He has clearly blossomed spectacularly as a player this summer though he seems to be taking it all very calmly.

"I did work hard in the winter and it all seems to be paying off this year.

"As far as I can remember with my cricket I've had the gloves on but in the last few years the batting has really taken off.

"I've worked consciously on my defence - making sure that side is as good as it can be.

"I know certain balls that other people might defend I look to score runs from. That's where my fast run-scoring comes from.

"I'm quite short and I think keepers tend to favour the back-foot shots so the cuts and pulls are my strengths, but I am starting to drive the ball pretty well."

There are plenty of rising stars with the gloves about on the county scene.

Top of the pack

And after a day playing cricket, Jones admits he likes to rush home to check their scores on Ceefax.

Chris Read, James Foster, Matt Prior, Tim Ambrose and Wallace are the names he looks out for.

"It's something you are conscious of. You are looking to see that you're staying top of the pack. That sort of competition can only be good."

The arrival of Muttiah Muralitharan at Kent is another challenge for Jones to deal with. Although fortunately he only has to stand up to his bowling rather than bat against him.

"At this time of year you can start to feel a bit tired," says Jones, "so to have the challenge of him coming along peps you up for the rest of the season."



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