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Opinion

The Australian cricket all-time great alphabet teams: Letter J

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Roar Guru
1st March, 2020
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So following on from last time’s I team, we come to the J team.

They have some very talented batsmen who for various reasons played less Test cricket than they should have. And they have a fearsome, well-rounded bowling attack.

Phil Jaques (NSW) – 11 Tests, 902 runs at 47.47, three centuries, 150 high score
Phil Jaques’ Test career was cruelled by a chronic back injury. With three centuries in 11 Tests and an average over 47, he would likely have enjoyed a long international career.

Jaques was struggling to break into the strong NSW side when in 2003 he went to play country cricket for Northamptonshire and scored over 1200 runs for the county season. He went on to star in the next four English summers, for Yorkshire and then Worcestershire. In between, he smashed 1191 runs in the 2005 Sheffield Shield season, which is the third-highest all-time for NSW.

Sitting behind the great pairing of Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden meant opportunities were limited to injury call ups until Langer retired in 2007. However, during this waiting period, Jaques did score 94 on his ODI debut, which was a record for Australia at the time.

On selection for the home series against Sri Lanka, Jaques established himself by scoring centuries in the first two Tests. But after a tour of the West Indies, and another century, his form waned as back injuries restricted him. He was replaced by Simon Katich (a fairly handy replacement, to be fair) and his Test career was over.

Jaques finished his career with over 16,000 first-class runs at an average above 48.

Nick Jewell (VIC) – 62 first-class matches, 4014 runs at 37.86, six centuries, 188 high score
Nick Jewell was a competent opening batsman for Victoria during the 2000s. His record was solid rather than spectacular, but he specialised in toughing out the big moments in Shield finals.

In 2006, Jewell scored 89 and 69 in Victoria’s final loss to Queensland. In 2008 he scored 99 in the second innings of the Vics’ Shield final loss to NSW. The following year in 2009 he scored another half-century in the state’s Shield final draw to win the title over Queensland. And finally in 2010 Jewell scored a second-innings half-century in Victoria’s Shield final win over Queensland. He was a man to be relied upon in the important moments.

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Jewell played every game for Victoria for five consecutive seasons. He also turned out for one game of AFL with Richmond.

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Archie Jackson (NSW) – eight Tests, 474 runs at 47.4, one century, 164 high score
Archie Jackson’s story has been told a number of times, even recently here on The Roar, so I will keep it brief. Eight Tests and only a single century (on debut as a 19-year-old) are a poor return for one of the most talented batsmen of his age, and one often considered to be Bradman’s equal.

Illness took Jackson at only 23, before he had a chance to mature and show his full talents, but he can take his place here at first drop and we can imagine what might have been.

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Dean Jones (VIC) – 52 Tests, 3631 runs at 46.55, 11 centuries, 216 high score, Cricket Australia Hall of Fame
Dean Jones was a supremely talented batsman who deserved to play more than his 52 Tests. But he was dropped from the Australian side as he entered his prime, and had to be content with dominating the Sheffield Shield and being acknowledged as one of Australia’s all-time great limited-overs batsmen.

Jones’ Test career is dominated by an amazing knock in only his third Test, 210 in Madras in 1986 in the famous tied Test, as Jones played through extreme heat and illness to dominate the match. He followed this effort with an unbeaten 184 to win a Test against England at the SCG and 216 against the West Indies in 1988-89.

Jones was a member of the national side for the second half of the 1980s and was one of many stars in England in 1989 as Australia regained the Ashes, scoring 566 runs for the series. The following year he scored centuries in each innings of a match against a Pakistan attack including Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

But by 1992 Jones was dropped from the side, never to return. He had topped the batting averages in his final Test series, against Sri Lanka. In his last four Tests, he had scored over 400 runs at an average above 70.

Any lingering animosity between Jones and the establishment must surely be gone with Jones inducted into the Cricket Australia Hall of Fame in 2019.

Over his whole career, Jones scored nearly 20,000 first-class runs at a tick under 52. A brilliant career.

Of course, there is also his superlative one-day career to consider. Jones has a definite case to play in Australia’s all-time greatest one-day team.

Dean Jones bats for Durham

(Chris Cole/Allsport)

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Ron James (NSW) – 45 first-class matches, 2582 runs at 40.34, four centuries, 210 high score
Ron James played for NSW from the late 1930s to the 1950s. He had a solid first-class record but never achieved higher honours. International cricket opportunities were limited during his prime years, due to World War Two (James left to serve in the war).

James represented NSW five times in the 1938-39 season, with little success (averaging only 27). He was absent from the state side in 1940-41, then the domestic first-class competition went on a three-year hiatus. James played in a couple of one-off fixtures during this period, including scoring a half-century for Australian Services against NSW.

Once the war was over, a more mature James returned solid numbers in 1945-46, scoring his first two centuries and averaging over 45. The following season saw him score over 650 runs at 53 with eight half-centuries, but without the defining run of scores to interest selectors. The 1947-48 campaign saw a double century but not a lot else and he was only selected three times the following year. His final two seasons saw James average around 40 but not be selected in all games.

Sammy Jones (NSW/QLD) (right-arm fast-medium) – 12 Tests, 428 runs at 21.4, six wickets at 18.66
Percy ‘Sammy’ Jones was a batting all-rounder from the 1880s who played 12 Tests. His main claim to fame is being the batsman run out by WG Grace in unsportsmanlike fashion as he was walking down the pitch doing some gardening in the famous Test at the Oval in 1882.

The Australian’s were so outraged, particularly ‘The Demon’ Fred Spofforth, that they came out and destroyed England for 77 chasing only 84 for the win. The obituary for English cricket was published, some bails were burned and the Ashes was born.

Legend also has it that Jones’ dismissal for 87 after opening the batting in Manchester on the 1886 Ashes tour, LBW to his old nemesis WG Grace, gave rise to the unlucky 87 superstition of Australian cricket. It was his only half-century in Tests.

Jones was a regular Australian team member and toured England four times in the 1880s.

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Barry Jarman (SA) (wicketkeeper) – 19 Tests, 400 runs at 14.81, 50 catches and four stumpings
Barry Jarman was a high-quality keeper for South Australia who could have played many more Tests but for the presence of the great Wally Grout.

Jarman was a top-level SANFL junior who turned to cricket after a leg injury. He debuted for South Australia in 1955 and was touring with the national team by 1957, however, he was overlooked as the first-choice keeper in favour of Grout, who made the position his own for the next decade. As a result, Grout has 51 Test caps and Jarman only 19.

Apart from some one-off Tests as injury cover, Jarman had to wait until Grout’s retirement in 1966 to become first-choice keeper. He was the number one keeper for Australia until 1968-69, playing 12 Tests and captaining his country in one Test in England. At the time of his retirement, Jarman’s 560 first-class dismissals were the third most by an Australian, behind only Grout and Bert Oldfield.

Mitchell Johnson (QLD) (left-arm fast) – 73 Tests, 313 wickets at 28.40, best bowling 8-61
Mitchell Johnson. Not since Jeff Thomson has a bowler been as accurately described by the phrase “I just run up and go wang”. No bowler in history has been so appallingly bad and terrifyingly good, often at the same time.

Johnson could bowl left-arm brutal at over 150 kilometres an hour. And when the stars were aligned he could go across the right-handed batsman or swing the ball violently into him, with no discernible change of action. And that’s because Johnson himself didn’t know why it happened.

Johnson’s career is a story of a constant struggle for control, punctuated by dizzying heights, most notably whenever he bowled in Perth (his record there stands at 25 wickets at 22.7 and an amazing strike rate of 37.8) or against South Africa (his record stands at 64 wickets at under 26 plus a number of broken bones against that opponent).

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Against the English, Johnson suffered a crisis of confidence and was an object of ridicule for the Barmy Army. But all that changed in 2013, when Johnson was recalled from the wilderness to take 37 series wickets as Australia monstered England in a five-nil Ashes blowout. The YouTube video of these dismissals is simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. Some opposing players never fully recovered.

But these 37 wickets were not even 12 per cent of his career scalps. Johnson’s 313 wickets were taken at a strike rate of just over 51, which is truly elite. And his consistency was actually underrated, averaging under 37 against all opposition and only averaging over 40 in India and Sri Lanka.

Johnson could also bat when the mood took him, scoring over 2000 runs including a century and 11 half-centuries, averaging over 22.

Australian bowler Mitchell Johnson prepares to bowl on day 3 of the second Test match between Australia and India at the Gabba in Brisbane, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

(AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Ian Johnson (VIC) (captain) (off-spin) – 45 Tests, 1000 runs at 18.51, 109 wickets at 29.19, best bowling 7-44
Ian Johnson was an off-spinner who captained Australia in 17 Tests in the 1950s, one of the few bowling captains Australia has appointed. At the time he was considered the safe option over the more controversial Keith Miller.

This was best illustrated by his popularity during the team’s first-ever tour of the West Indies. But the team was in a lull between the Bradman/Hassett and Benaud eras and Johnson was the first Australian captain in the 20th century to lose consecutive Ashes series.

Johnson was a quality defensive off-spinner who bowled very slowly and teased batsman in flight. He did not bowl in his first two Tests in 1946, but in his third in Sydney in the 1946-47 Ashes Johnson took 6-42 on his bowling debut. During a decade in the team, he only took two more five-fors but averaged under 30 due to a very low economy rate (2.17).

Johnson was also a solid lower-order batsman, averaging over 18 and he did the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in Test cricket.

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Some Miller supporters nicknamed Johnson myxomatosis because he allegedly only bowled when the rabbits (i.e. the tailenders) were in.

Bill Johnston (VIC) (left-arm medium-fast/left-arm orthodox) – 40 Tests, 160 wickets at 23.91, best bowling 6-44
Our third Johns(t)on in the bowling attack is Bill, a left-arm bowler who has been overshadowed somewhat in his era by Ray Lindwall and Miller, but whose record stands as one of the best in Australian history.

Johnston was a frugal left-arm medium-pacer (economy rate of 2.09) with a notorious bouncer, who could also bowl left-arm orthodox. He first came to prominence in the 1946-47 home summer after World War Two, taking 16 wickets in four Tests against India. He was a star on the 1948 Invincibles tour of England, picking up 27 Test wickets and he took at least 20 wickets in each of his next four series.

Johnston reached 100 Test wickets in only four years, a record at the time. Thereafter he suffered a serious knee injury that reduced his effectiveness and he retired after only a few more Tests. Neil Harvey said that Johnston was “one of the best all-round bowlers in the history of cricket”.

Ernie Jones (SA) (right-arm fast) – 19 Tests, 64 wickets at 29.01, best bowling 7-88
Ernie Jones was a multi-talented sportsman in the 1890s and 1900s, who was considered one of the first truly express Australian bowlers. In addition to playing 19 Tests, Jones was a notable player in the SANFL, playing for Port Adelaide, North Adelaide and South Adelaide and representing South Australia four times.

Jones is probably most famous for sending a ball straight through the beard of the venerable WG Grace. His response when approached by Grace? “Sorry Doctor, she slipped.”

During that tour, Jones took over 120 wickets at an average around 16. His success on tour did not translate to the Tests, however, taking only six wickets in three Tests.

Despite touring England twice more, Jones’ record is not as imposing of others of the day. Maybe the threat was more than the reality, but he did take a memorable ten-wicket haul in a match at Lord’s in 1899 to help Australia clinch the series. His 26 wickets in the series was his best career performance.

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Jones was also a controversial figure, being the first player ever to be no-balled in a Test match for chucking.

Next, we have the K team, full of solid first-class professionals, if maybe lacking a little in star power.