x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Geraint Jones upstaged by Afghanistan

Former England Test player fails with bat as Papua New Guinea lose to Afghanistan in World Twenty20 Qualifier opening match by six wickets in Dubai.

Geraint Jones admitted to nerves after falling for nought against Afghanistan in Dubai. Thusith Wijedoru / ICC
Geraint Jones admitted to nerves after falling for nought against Afghanistan in Dubai. Thusith Wijedoru / ICC

DUBAI // Early on in his first international debut eight years ago, Geraint Jones thought he had claimed one of the most famous names in all of cricket for a duck as his first Test victim behind the wickets.

He believed he had detected a faint nick from the bat of Brian Lara in a match in Antigua. The umpire did not concur, and Lara proceeded to help himself to the small matter of 400 runs, the highest score ever in Tests.

Jones could have done with some similar umpiring benevolence upon his re-emergence as an international cricketer, this time wearing the black of Papua New Guinea, yesterday.

He might have got away with it, too, had he not smashed the ball so audibly when on nought during a six-wicket defeat to Afghanistan in the opening match of the World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE.

"I was nervous, the same sort of nerves I'd have with any games," Jones, 35, said. "It was nice to be back in a big stadium again and to get that feel of international cricket. I enjoyed that part, for sure.

"Getting off to the start I did today wasn't ideal, but that is cricket. As much preparation as you do, you can still go out there and nick one behind."

Ironically, Jones should be back in Antigua this week, on a pre-season training camp with Kent, his county employers. Instead he is enjoying a second crack at the international game with PNG.

Despite missing out on a trip to the Caribbean, he has still been clocking up the air miles this year.

He travelled to Port Moresby, the PNG capital, to meet his new teammates, they had a training camp in Canberra, he then nipped back to the UK for fitness testing with Kent, then came to the UAE.

That are quite a few passport stamps, but then Jones could easily have quite a few passports.

He was born in Kundiawa in PNG, grew up in Australia, moved to Wales then ended up playing for England. His kit bag probably has more badges than Paddington Bear's. "When the opportunity came to join these guys, I jumped at it as it was a new challenge," he said. "I never had any doubts about doing it."

His new teammates have given him a pidgin nickname which translates as "Son of Chimbu", the highland province where he was born and lived for the first six years of his life.

"They are always laughing, there is always music being played, they are always singing," Jones said.

"Being born in the country is something that has helped, as it has given me a tie with them straight away. It has helped me connect with them quicker."

pradley@thenational.ae