The journey from Shropshire to Sparks HQ in Worcester takes about an hour by car; 6 hours by bike; 20 hours to walk… or 13 years if you’re Eve Jones!
Jones made her senior debut for Shropshire as a 15-year-old in 2007 – scoring her first fifty that season against Leicestershire. In 2012 she moved to Staffordshire, where she scored 3 centuries and 5 half-centuries in 5 seasons, before making another move to Lancashire, where she won the County Championship and T20 Cup double in 2017.
Now aged 28 she’s finally arrived at Worcester, as captain of the Central Sparks – the Warwickshire-Worcestershire franchise in England’s new regional competition, the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
Three matches in, and Jones is already making an impact on the bigger stage of the RHF. A week ago at Edgbaston, the Sparks almost made a pickle of chasing just 135 against the Thunder – losing 6 wickets in the process. This weekend, they made a chase of 166 look easy, mainly thanks to a classic “captain’s innings” from Jones, who scored a lovely 90 off 113 balls.
But don’t just take my word for it – take the words of Thunder coach and former England boss Paul Shaw, who told us post-match: “It’s wonderful to see Eve Jones play beautifully the way that she has today.”
Jones happened upon the captaincy of the Sparks this season via the slightly unusual process, at this level at least, of being democratically elected by her team-mates: “It was really nice to get the support of the team,” she tells us, “and I’m enjoying the captaincy.”
And after spending much of the early part of her career propping up sides at the unfashionable end of the County Championship, Jones is also obviously relishing being part of a more elite unit at the Sparks:
“I feel like we’ve got a good, strong side so everyone is contributing, which is really nice as a captain – you can just chuck the ball to somebody and they are going to perform.”
It’s typical of Jones that she shares the credit around, and she’s down to earth about her new status as a ‘pro’ cricketer too:
“I’m enjoying being the senior player in the team – it’s nice to help the others along,” she says. “But I don’t really think too much about the ‘professional’ bit – we just stick to our game and try to do what we need to do on the pitch.”
With the Northern Diamonds having pulled a rabbit out of the hat against Lightning yesterday, Sparks sit second in the North Group of the RHF behind Diamonds, with next weekend’s fixture between the two sides at Headingley looking like a pivotal match in the race to the final at Edgbaston.
But first for the Sparks, there’s the Lightning to overcome next Friday:
“We’ve got some good momentum now with two wins on the bounce – even without our England players I feel like we’ve got a good, strong side and everyone is contributing, but we’re just looking forward to the next game here at Worcester next week.”
But with Jones in fantastic form, Marie Kelly finally getting a real opportunity to show what she can do at this level, and players like Clare Boycott, who took a 4-fer yesterday, and Gwen Davies stepping bleary-eyed into the limelight, the Sparks are really starting to fly down at Worcester, and you wouldn’t bet against them finishing the tournament where they started it, at Edgbaston for the final on September 27th.