When Simon Jones last toured the West Indies he was part of a bowling unit that became part of Ashes legend a year later.
Jones helped England beat the West Indies 3-0 in the Caribbean in 2004 as part of a four-man attack also including Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff. That seam quartet was a key factor in England winning the Ashes in 2005, under Michael Vaughan.
Similarly, Jones believes there were encouraging signs for the forthcoming season with Hampshire during the Royals’ recent run to the Caribbean T20 final in Barbados.
“It was a good trip and I think we surprised a lot of people with the way we played,” he said. Hampshire were surprisingly beaten by Canada in their opening game in Antigua but soon bounced back from that upset to beat Barbados.
Jones took an outstanding four for 10 from his four overs as the match finished in a tie, before claiming both wickets without conceding a run in the super-over decider.
It was arguably the game of the tournament and a terrific win for a young Hampshire side against a Barbados team including the likes of Tino Best, Ryan Hinds, Sulieman Benn and Dwayne Smith.
“We were caught cold against Canada and were a bit too tentative with the way we bowled and batted so it was nice to beat those lads!” said Jones. “They had a bit of a strut on so it was fantastic to beat them on such a big stage.”
Hampshire’s win against the Leeward Islands in their next game was enough to secure their qualification for the semi-finals when the business end of the tournament began in Barbados.
The Royals then booked their place in the final by beating the Windward Islands by four runs in another thriller, thanks to 88 from new signing Johann Myburgh and a spell of four for 15 from Hamza Riazuddin.
Jones and Riazuddin, neither of whom featured at Friends Provident t20 Finals Day last summer when Hampshire emerged as domestic short-form champions, finished as the tournament’s leading wicket-takers, with 12 apiece.
“Riaz was fantastic, Benny Howell batted and bowled well and Michael Bates kept really well,” said Jones. “It was a fantastic chance for them to show what they can do, and they were really great signs for the future.”
Another encouragement was Myburgh’s performance. Only Jamaica’s Marlon Samuels scored more than the new boy’s 223 Caribbean T20 runs at 44 apiece. “He’s a great bloke and settled into the side very quickly,” said Jones.
“The boys really took to him. It’s fantastic to have him on board, as he can offer so much. He has a wealth of experience and is a tough little cookie. He’s been nothing but good for the team.”
Moreover, when Sean Ervine decided not to play for Zimbabwe at next month’s World Cup so he could remain with Hampshire, it was like signing another new player for those at the club.
“The lads breathed a huge sigh of relief when he decided to stay,” added Jones. “I was very disappointed when I heard he was leaving, and he would have been sadly missed because of what he brings to the team.
“With him in the squad we cover all bases in all forms of the game, which bodes well for the summer ahead.”