Alan Jones cigarette card
Alan Jones cigarette card

Glamorgan legend Alan Jones was born November 4, 1938. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the man whose only Test was erased from annals of cricket.

Perhaps the greatest example of Alan Jones’ misfortune is the world record he holds: among those who have not played Test cricket Jones has scored the most First-Class runs. He was perhaps the greatest mainstay the unfashionable county of Glamorgan ever had.

It was unfortunate that Jones was never considered for selection despite the fact that he was one of the grittiest England openers in the 1970s. During the mid-1970s, especially, the English openers were battered and bruised by Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Wayne Daniel among others. Jones was still overlooked.

Jones had the old-fashioned approach towards opening an innings. As John Arlott wrote in Wisden, “Fundamentally correct and determined, he created the left-hander’s stock impression of heavy-handedness. In addition to all the shifts and nudges of the opening batsman against the new ball, he played with controlled power though the arc between cover point and mid-on. At need, too, he could push the scoring rate along by resource rather than slogging.”

Dr Andrew Hignell, Honorary Statistician and Historian of Glamorgan CCC, wrote: “Alan’s prolific run-scoring was based on a solid technique, and an almost unwavering concentration and, given his fine record at county level, it was surprising that he was constantly overlooked by the England selectors.”

He was also a capable leader, but was one of those men who preferred to lead by example; an honest man without any sort of doubt regarding his credibility or integrity, Jones the captain played a crucial role in lifting Glamorgan from the abysmal lows of 1977.

From 645 First-Class matches, mostly for Glamorgan (though he also played domestic cricket in Australia and South Africa) Jones had scored 36,049 runs at 32.89 with 56 hundreds. A fine fielder, he also held 288 catches.

Jones has scored the most runs (34,056) for Glamorgan. It is a record that is unlikely to be broken. Emrys Davies, the next man on the list, is way behind with 26,102 runs. He has also scored the most fifty-plus scores (238) for them. Matthew Maynard with 177 comes next.

He played for Glamorgan for 27 seasons: after missing out on the first four Jones crossed the 1,000-run mark in 23 consecutive seasons. The records themselves prove his stamina, endurance, and dedication to his county and Welsh cricket in general.

Early days

Alan was the eighth in a family of nine brothers in Velindre near Swansea. His father, a farmer, took keen enthusiasm in all sport, especially cricket. The youngest brother Eifion, a wicketkeeper, was also a Glamorgan mainstay, and ended up playing 405 First-Class matches.

Jones made it to the First XI of Clydach – one of the strongest clubs in the Swansea area (the others being Gowerton and Briton Ferry) – at an age of 15. He was quickly spotted by the Glamorgan cricketer George Lavis in the indoor school at Neath; Lavis mentioned that Jones was gifted with “a quick eye, sure feet, and courage”. Comparisons with Davies had already sprung up, mostly due to the similar styles.

Jones joined the Glamorgan staff in 1955, went for the National Services three years later, and eventually started playing full-fledged First-Class cricket in 1960. In between he played for the Army and the Combined Services.

During his army days Jones managed to play 8 matches across three seasons for Glamorgan. His First-Class debut came against Gloucestershire; he was dismissed for 0 and 12. In fact, the three seasons fetched him only 159 runs at 10.60.

Jones started playing as a professional for Glamorgan from 1960 and scored 55 not out in his first match of the season against Kent. He finished the season with 895 runs at 21.30; it would be the last time in his career that he would not score a thousand runs in an English season.

He did not get a hundred in 1961 either, but ended up crossing the fifty-mark 11 times. He won a Glamorgan cap in 1962 and almost immediately a gutsy 92 against the visiting Pakistanis. Later that season Jones brought up his first First-Class hundred when he scored 121 against Sussex, adding 238 for the second wicket with Tony Lewis.

1963 turned out to be a much better season for Jones: he scored 1,857 runs at 34.38. His moment of glory came against Somerset where he scored 187 not out and 105 not out. By now he had formed a formidable opening partnership with Bernard Hedges.

Jones got an offer to play for Western Australia later that year. He did not come good, and managed only 504 runs from 10 matches with an average of 25.20, crossing the fifty-mark only thrice. He never played First-Class cricket on Australian soil again.

Thereafter Jones continued to deliver consistently for Glamorgan, season after season, offering more reliability than panache to the side. A moment of glory came when carried his bat through the innings, scoring 166 not out in a team score of 364 against Nottinghamshire.

The average slowly shifted to the high-30s as the decade went on. He played a crucial role in Glamorgan’s Championship win in 1969 – only the second time in their history (the earlier occasion being in 1948). With 1,441 runs at 42.38 he topped the Glamorgan charts and finished fourth in the national list.

Glamorgan began to be considered more seriously than before, and Jones soon came into the limelight. He was part of an MCC tour of Ceylon and the Far East (Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong). Against Ceylon he scored 112 in the second innings: it was the only fifty of the match.

Glamorgan was also invited for a short tour of the Caribbean that winter; in the match against Trinidad & Tobago, Jones top-scored with 114 in the first innings. No Englishman crossed 40 in the entire match.

The Test debut that never was

After England’s tour of South Africa was cancelled a series was organised between England and the Rest of the World XI. The matches were given Test status. When Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey, and John Edrich all pulled out of the first Test for various reasons Jones was drafted in to make his Test debut in the first match at Lord’s.

He must have been a happy man to be given his Test cap, sweater, tie, and blazer just before the Test. He did not do too well in the Test: he was caught behind by Farokh Engineer off Mike Procter in each innings for 5 and 0. He was dropped for the rest of the series.

However, subsequent discussions led to a fate that turned out to be rather harsh on Jones: the Tests were stripped of their official status, which meant that Jones had to relinquish his Test cap (though not literally). He never got another bite at it. To add to his woes, the one-off Test between Australia and the ICC World XI 35 years later still retains, its official status.

The decision was taken by ICC in July 1972. Jones was never even informed of the decision. It was by chance that he stumbled across it on a newspaper — in a way somewhat similar to his axing from the England Test side after his failure at Lord’s. Arlott wrote: “It is a savage irony that his only selection — for England was in the massive con trick — as cynical as any ever pulled in cricket.” Wisden eventually removed the records from their archives in 1979.

Leading Glamorgan

Jones’ only Test turned out to be a farce, but he did well in the Championship yet again, taking Glamorgan to the second spot as they fell marginally short of Kent. With 1,129 runs at 38.93, he finished third on the Glamorgan chart, next to only Tony Lewis and Bryan Davis.

Glamorgan gave Jones a benefit season in 1972: it made their dour, obdurate opener richer by £10,000. He was appointed captain of Glamorgan in 1974 — a post he held for three seasons before standing down in 1977. During his tenure he led Glamorgan to the Gillette Cup final in 1976.

Other than his List A achievements, Jones finished 1976 with 1,692 runs at 45.72 with 3 hundreds. He also went on to play two seasons in South Africa — for Northern Transvaal in 1975-76 and for Natal in 1976-77.

1977 was what Wisden called “the most traumatic since Glamorgan’s birth”. There was a players’ rebellion against the newly appointed captain Majid Khan; there was a members’ revolt; and the quality of cricket played was way inferior to their own performances earlier that decade.

An ad-hoc committee was formed under Ossie Wheatley, and Jones was requested to lift Glamorgan from the mess. They replaced Majid as captain by Jones mid-season. Wisden later wrote: “Alan Jones faced his new task with a firmness and friendliness which brought about a near miracle in the playing fortunes of the team. He lifted them from the depths and restored their pride and faith in themselves. His influence on the young players had an important bearing on the field.”

His firm leadership, excellent work ethics made Jones a very capable leader. He led by example and succeeded in bringing back the spirit of the sport. He was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year as well as Player of the Year. He also became the first winner of the Apex Trophy and £300 by a South Wales firm of industrialists: the prize was won by “the player who had contributed most to the county in 1977”.

In a span of 4 innings in 1978, Jones scored 102 against Somerset, and 147 and 100 against Hampshire. The old ghosts were forgotten, and Glamorgan was back at their best yet again.

Jones continued to play on till 1983. Glamorgan gave him another benefit season — in 1980 — and it raised £35,000. In 1982 he was awarded MBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours for Services to Cricket. Jones’ last match came against Hampshire, where he managed to score only 9 and 4.

Post-retirement

Jones took to coaching after calling it quits at 45. Along with Peter Davies he coaches the Wales Under-11 cricket team — even at the age of 75. His son Andrew has played List A cricket for Glamorgan, while Eifion’s son Gareth has also played for Glamorgan Colts.

However, his main post-retirement role was to take over as coach of Glamorgan immediately after retirement. He worked as Director of Coaching at Hampshire before retiring in 1998.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)