By Stuart Clarke
JUST A few years ago Amy Jones was prowling the boundaries of England Women’s international games in search of autographs from her favourite players. Now the Warwickshire wicketkeeper admits it’s a strange feeling to be playing alongside them.
Jones made an immediate impact in her international debut, aged 19, against Sri Lanka in February 2013, scoring 43 and adding 83 for the sixth wicket with Jenny Gunn, one of her idols as a youngster.
Now, at the age of 21, Jones is a centrally contracted England player and was a regular feature in the busy winter tours of the West Indies, Australia, and the World t20 in Bangladesh.
The Loughborough University student says the experience of playing with the players she looks up to is one that never wears off. “It’s always a privilege to play with the England girls,” she said. “As a youngster I watched some of the older girls play and waited around to get their signatures, so it’s odd now to be playing alongside them.
“I’ve always looked up to Sarah (Taylor) because of her wicketkeeping and now we train a lot together. She’s definitely helped me improve my game and hopefully I can keep pushing her to improve hers as well.”
With Taylor filling the role of wicketkeeper in all formats of the game for England, Jones has seen her playing time restricted behind the stumps for the Three Lions. She took her chance to shine, however, in this summer’s Super 3s tournament, starring in Lydia Greenway’s side and sharing a 165-run partnership with her captain in their victory over Heather Knight’s team in May.
But Jones admits that the chance to travel the world and play cricket is something she could only have dreamed of in the past, and a new sponsorship deal with Kia has added another welcome boost to the sport.
“The contract means we are able to have more contact time with coaches and each other,” she said. “We were training professionally before in terms of our work ethic, but this now makes it easier for us to concentrate on our cricket and not have to have a job alongside it.
“It’s fantastic for the sport, and a lot of the more experienced players have worked hard to get us to this point. The recognition we are getting as a team now is thoroughly deserved.”
With England’s international fixtures starting in August, Jones has had a busy season with Warwickshire, attempting to avoid relegation from Division One. And she led from the front in the 311-run victory over Essex in Southend last month which lifted Warwicks off the bottom of the table.
Jones’ innings of 124 – the fourth highest in the competition this season – came from just 80 balls and included 22 fours and served as a timely reminder of her talents with the bat. Warwicks now need to win their final game against Berkshire on Sunday to avoid entering the relegation play-off which comes with an eighth-place finish.
And with such a young squad at the county, Jones and fellow England star Becky Grundy are the experienced heads trying to guide them to safety.
“We’ve had a lot of our older players retire recently, so it’s quite a young squad here. We’ve bowled really well, but we’re not scoring enough runs,” Jones added.
“Hopefully we are acting as role models and guiding the younger players through the season. They just need more experience, so hopefully in a few years we will be pushing for the top.
“It is a bit of a weird feeling being one of the older and more experienced players in the squad. The average age of our squad must be ridiculously young – I feel old at 21!
“It was a very big win (over Essex) so hopefully we’ve got a bit of momentum going into the Berkshire game.”