On the morning of 24 July 1903, A O Jones came out to bat for Nottinghamshire against Gloucestershire and made just 16 runs before becoming one of Harry Huggins’s four victims.
Happily – he already had 280 runs to his name overnight!
296 is STILL the highest First-Class score at Trent Bridge by a Notts player.
Arthur Owen Jones – known as ‘AO’ or ‘Jonah’ – was Notts skipper, having taken over the captaincy in 1900, who later led them to the County Championship in 1907.
In six hours of batting in that 1903 innings, he hit 36 fours, 13 threes, and 24 twos. (Prior to 1910, six runs were only awarded for hits out of the ground). As an indication of his dominance in that match, no other batter made more than 76.
He obviously took a liking to Gloucestershire’s bowling as one of his other 250+ scores was also made against them. He scored 274 v Essex and 249 against Sussex in a career that in 472 First-Class matches produced 22,935 runs at an average of 31.54, including 34 centuries.
He was also an occasional leg break bowler, taking 333 wickets at an average of 32.81.
Jones made his First-Class debut for Notts in a six-wicket victory over Lancashire in 1892 but played his first match at Trent Bridge a season earlier, appearing for Walter Wright’s XI v Eton Ramblers. A top score of 78 in that match showed his promise.
Despite Jones’ playing success for Nottinghamshire he was not able to transform his form to international cricket, ending his twelve-Test career with 291 runs at an average of just 13.85 and three wickets at an average of 44.33.
Away from his county scoring record, ‘Jonah’s’ cricketing legacy is perhaps his outstanding fielding. In an era when good fielding and catching was at a premium, he set standards for others to follow.
In his First-Class career he took 580 catches and even two stumpings! Against Gloucestershire (what was it about Gloucs that brought out the best in him?) in 1908 he took seven catches in the match and against Sussex at Hove in 1907 held five in one innings (then a record).
In Peter Wynne Thomas’s book on Notts cricketers he quotes – at length – a description of one of ‘Jonah’s’ catches from The Cricketer…
“…in the Test Match of 1909, AO Jones, prince of fieldsmen, caught the most wonderful catch…”
Jones was at ‘silly’ short leg and took an ankle height catch off a full-blooded Monty Noble drive. Nowadays, it’s the sort of catch that cricket fans expect to be taken. Wynne Thomas asserts that AO was “…selected for England almost entirely on account of his brilliant fielding…”
When he died of tuberculosis (at just 41 years old) in 1914, most obituaries concentrated on his catching and his captaincy.
The American Cricketer (who knew?) said “…as a fieldsman he had no superiors at his best and no-one surpassed him in keenness…A great slip, he was scarcely less great as an outfield…
…In the field, ‘Jonah’ was always on his toes…every nerve was a quiver with expectancy…”
The Nottingham Guardian was no less fulsome. They credit him with ‘inventing’ the position we now call Gully:
“…a device to which Tom (Topsy) Wass, and many another fast bowler, has owed many a wicket.”
His sporting prowess was not confined to the cricket field. He played Rugby as a three-quarter, including 10 years with Leicester (four as captain); and became a Rugby referee after his playing days. Jones also played soccer, including turning out for Richmond FC.
At University, AO excelled at fives as well as cricket and was described as ‘a fine amateur billiards player.’
His 120-year old record of 296 is not the highest score at the ground, however. There have been three triple centuries at Trent Bridge; the highest, 345, was made by Australia’s Charlie MacCartney in 1921.
The most recent was by Hampshire’s John Crawley’s who made 301no in 2004 – a score he bettered by ten runs when the two counties met at Southampton in 2005. Crawley is the only player to have made two 300+ scores against Notts.
Spare a thought for Jones’s team-mate John Gunn, the holder of the previous record for Notts with 294 made against Leicestershire – just eight weeks before ‘AO’ topped him by two runs. Two monumental scores within a couple of months and unequalled in more than a century.