T20 World Cup: From playing with Jofra Archer to hitting 10 sixes, Aaron Jones lives an American dream | Crickit
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T20 World Cup: From playing with Jofra Archer to hitting 10 sixes, Aaron Jones lives an American dream

By, Kolkata
Jun 02, 2024 08:59 PM IST

Hits 40-ball 94* on debut in huge T20 World Cup win against Canada to give Barbados a unique distinction of representations in WI, England, and now, the USA.

It’s a Caribbean thing, smoking big sixes. Aaron Jones joining Chris Gayle as the only international batters to clobber at least 10 sixes in a T20 innings thus isn’t surprising. He may be playing for the USA but whatever cricket Jones has learnt was at Barbados, where he grew up playing alongside Shai Hope, Nicholas Pooran and Rovman Powell. Also Jofra Archer, the just-back-from-injury England tearaway who lived a few houses down the road from Jones in the parish of St Philip, on the easternmost side of Barbados that is dotted with idyllic beaches and a lighthouse at the tip of the island.

USA's vice-captain Aaron Jones celebrates winning the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 group A cricket match(AFP)
USA's vice-captain Aaron Jones celebrates winning the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 group A cricket match(AFP)

It gives Barbados a unique distinction as probably the only country with international representations in three different teams — West Indies, England, and now, the USA. And there couldn’t have been a better introduction for Jones, scoring an unbeaten 94 off 40 balls on debut — the second highest individual score on World Cup debut after Gayle’s 117 (vs SA, 2007). It contributed a record 31.6% of the total runs while raising a record 131-run stand with Andries Gous in a seven-wicket romp over Canada with 14 balls to spare in Dallas, Texas. Note: The stand between Jones and Gous came at 14.29 runs per over, the highest run-rate for any century partnership at the T20 World Cup.

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These are dream beginnings but Jones took a winding route to arrive here. It’s been only five years now that the USA has been granted ODI status, Jones playing a key role in securing it with his maiden List A hundred against Namibia in Division 2 of the World Cricket League. Throughout that time he used to play for Barbados as well, as a Professional Cricket League (PCL) contracted cricketer. An international future wasn’t on the horizon for a long time. But Jones, 29, hung on to the hope and training he got at Barbados.

Born in New York, Jones had moved back to Barbados as a three-year old. This is where he met Archer. “We went to primary school and secondary school together. We learnt all our cricket together in Barbados. But when we were, say, at the under-15 stage, we didn’t have the slightest clue we would end up playing for two different countries,” Jones had told HT in 2019. “We don’t live too far from each other. Whenever he is back in Barbados, or maybe when I’m back, we hang out.”

Having lost their openers quickly, USA were in a spot of bother at 42/2 when Jones walked in with a seemingly difficult target of 195 staring down on him from the giant scoreboard. But it didn’t take long to swing the mood as Jones started picking apart spinners Saad Bin Zafar and Nikhil Dutta, coming down the pitch and even reverse-sweeping them to bring USA back in the chase. Overlooked for the Major League Cricket (MLC) draft this season, Jones surely is going to prompt second thoughts.

“I always back myself and I always know that I'm capable of performing at every level. I'm really happy that I came out on top today, had a good innings and won the game for USA. I hope it could open the eyes of some people around the world and they can really and truly understand that I'm good enough to play T20 cricket,” Jones said at the post-match press conference. It’s a feeling many cricketers from Associate nations share. It drove Corey Anderson, a swashbuckling New Zealand power-hitter not too long ago – he was a 4.5 crore IPL auction pick by Mumbai Indians in 2014 – to migrate to the USA for a chance to play at the World Cup. Bin Zafar, 37, made his Canada debut in 2008 after moving from Pakistan as a teenager. Harmeet Singh played for India at U-19 level before moving to the USA.

This T20 World Cup, at least the league phase, is expected to showcase that part of the world which desires to be a more integral part of the game. Asian and Caribbean origin players have shown the way, raising the hope of leaving cricket's permanent footprint in newer nations. And the process has been nothing short of captivating. A Queens-born Bajan with a New Zealander as partner, hitting the winning six off a Kuwait-born Canada bowler of Indian descent before the stands of a Texas ground filled with expats, one of them wearing a Chennai Super Kings shirt — inclusivity hasn’t felt this delightful in years.

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