Meet England's only no-cap wonder – Alan Jones! | Daily News


Meet England's only no-cap wonder – Alan Jones!

Glamorgan's Alan Jones went from a one England Test cap wonder to a no-cap wonder
Glamorgan's Alan Jones went from a one England Test cap wonder to a no-cap wonder

Fifty years on, the disappointment lingers. One minute Alan Jones, among the most prolific openers in the history of the game, had a Test cap. The next, he did not. To this day, no one has bothered to explain why.

The summer of 1970 remains unique in the annals of English cricket. South Africa, the scheduled tourists, were ditched when the British Government bowed to pressure from anti-apartheid demonstrators.

They were replaced by a glittering Rest of the World XI featuring stars from West Indies, Pakistan, India, Australia and — yes — South Africa.

The five matches were sold to the public and players as Tests. Indeed, Garry Sobers, the World XI captain and the greatest all-rounder the game has known, agreed to take part only on that condition. At Lord's, he began with six for 21 and a magnificent 183. He meant business. After all, this was Test cricket, wasn't it?

For Alan Jones, enjoying a season to remember with Glamorgan, selection was reward for a career that had begun in 1957 and always been chock-full of runs.

'I remember how proud I was,' he told Sportsmail. 'Wearing the Welsh daffodil was one thing. Now I had the three Lions of England.'

But nerves took over. In the opener at Lord's — Jones's Test debut, he assumed — he was dismissed for five and nought by Mike Procter, the South African force of nature who bowled off the wrong foot. Jones was dropped for John Edrich, and never picked again. 'Nobody explained anything,' he says. 'An explanation didn't happen in those days.'

Worse was to come. In 1972, the ICC ruled the series did not have Test status, arguing they had never conferred it in the first place. At a stroke, Jones was relegated from a one-cap wonder to a no-cap wonder. And that, at the age of 81, is how he remains. 'It was very disappointing because of all the work that had gone into getting the cap,' he says in soft tones that convey regret but no bitterness. 'Glamorgan wasn't the easiest place to get recognised by England and it was reckoned at the time that all the players were going to get full caps for the series.

'When I found out later that it wasn't being valued, it meant it was no longer possible to wear that blazer with any pride. That is very sad. I've never officially been told it didn't count. I just read it in the papers.'

The ICC's position had some logic, but it was bureaucratic and devoid of heart. They say they insisted at the time that the games would be 'unofficial Tests'.

Yet so were all matches played by South Africa between their exit from the Commonwealth in 1961 and their expulsion from international cricket in 1970. Instead, their games continue to be treated as Tests. England v Rest of the World does not.

Just as gallingly, the one-off game between Australia and an ICC World XI in 2005 is deemed an official Test. Yet 50 summers ago, the players were in no doubt.

'I thought it was five Test caps,' said Procter. 'We'd just thrashed Australia 4-0 and this was far more competitive, despite the scoreline. There's no way at all that England were taking it easy. That was never going to happen under Ray Illingworth. They were a fine side. Don't forget, later that year they won in Australia.'

His role in Jones's demise came with its own poignancy. 'He used to come to Natal to coach and I'm a friend of his,' said Procter.

'He was a top batsman. For him to play only one Test then have that taken away from him was harsh.'

Jones still kicks himself. 'Nerves played a big part. That was something I thought about for the rest of my career. The funny thing was, I'd always managed to score runs when Procter was playing for Gloucestershire. Quite a few runs, in fact.' Instead, Jones was absent as England fought back from their Sobers-inspired demolition at Lord's to win at Trent Bridge, before the Rest won at Edgbaston. In the fourth game at Headingley, England looked set to square the series again, only for Procter and South Africa's batting genius Barry Richards — down at No 9 because of an injury — to add an unbroken 43. A 4-1 win was completed at the Oval, although Procter says: 'It looks like a hiding, but it wasn't.' Should the series be retrospectively granted Test status? Procter believes so.

'Absolutely. When you look at some of the Tests these days — with respect to Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and, in their early days, Sri Lanka — you can't compare them.'

Because of apartheid, he never added to his seven Test caps. But at least no one took them away from him. As for Jones, his sweater and cap live in a glass case in his study at home in Gorseinon, a few miles out of Swansea. The blazer is in a cupboard. 'I've never spoken to many people about it,' he said. 'I accepted it. I just carried on trying my best to play another Test.

'When I look at some players who have represented England, they failed a few times but were given more opportunities. For me, it was one Test and I wasn't looked at again. There was talk about me moving to another county, but I was a proud Welshman and I don't think I could have left Glamorgan. Lots of people told me to move, but they looked after me very well.'

It's safe to say Jones repaid them. By the time he retired in 1983 at the age of 43, he had amassed more than 36,000 first-class runs. No one in history has scored more without winning an official Test cap.

Thanks to the ICC, then, he is a world-record holder. It is a record he would happily live without.

– Daily Mail


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