Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ernest Jones (1869–1943)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

Ernest Jones (1869-1943), cricketer, was born on 30 September 1869 at Auburn, South Australia, son of Joseph Jones, stonemason, and his wife Mary, née Williams. After attending the local school he worked with his father as a painter and mason on government contract works around Quorn and at Broken Hill, New South Wales. He began his cricketing career as a deadly tearaway bowler on indifferent country pitches, then joined North Adelaide Cricket Club where he had considerable success. He first played for South Australia in December 1892 and for Australia against England in 1894.

Jones toured England in 1896, 1899 and 1902 taking 121, 135 and 71 wickets at 19 runs apiece. His English début was sensational. In the first match against a top England XI Jones put a ball through W. G. Grace's beard and to W.G.'s imperious 'What do you think you're at, Jonah?', replied 'Sorry, Doctor, she slipped'. He hit Grace in the chest, broke F. S. Jackson's ribs and took 7 for 84—only Ranjitsinhji mastered the terrific pace. Thereafter 'Whar be Jones?' was the first question asked everywhere the Australians went. Other successes included 8 for 39 against an England XI and 6 for 74 and 7 for 36 against Yorkshire. Inevitably some asserted that he threw, but Jones was never 'called' in England. Although he was less successful in the Tests, W. L. Murdoch and Sussex offered him £350 a year to qualify for residence, but he declined.

In Australia in 1897-98 he took 22 Test wickets at 25.13 apiece and a record 14 for 237 for South Australia against an England XI at Adelaide. In the five Tests in England in 1899 Jones was more destructive than H. Trumble or M. A. Noble taking 26 wickets at 25.26; his 10 for 164 at Lords clinched the rubber. In 1902 the wet weather told against fast bowlers and he took only three Test wickets.

In the 1900s Jones played several games for Western Australia, ending his first-class career in 1907. In 19 Tests he took 60 wickets at 29.28 apiece; in Sheffield Shield and first-class cricket he took 209 at 26.35 and 645 at 22.75 runs respectively. In 1912 he joined the shipping branch of the Department of Trade and Customs as a searcher and watchman at Fremantle where he rowed out to barrack visiting English teams aboard ship. He transferred to Port Adelaide in 1924 and was promoted in 1927.

Australia's first express bowler, 'Jonah', tallish, barrel-chested and very strong, always attacked the stumps; from a comparatively short run he made the ball lift sharply on a good length. He was a magnificent off-side fieldsman, but a slogger with the bat. When introduced to the Prince of Wales, who asked if he had gone to St Peter's College, Adelaide, he facetiously replied, 'Yes, I take the dust cart there regularly!'. He was also a professional runner and fine Australian Rules footballer, playing for South Australia, and for South, Port and North Adelaide clubs, captaining the last to its first premiership.

Jones died on 23 November 1943 in Royal Adelaide Hospital and was buried in West Terrace cemetery. He was survived by his wife Eliza, née Matthews, whom he had married in Adelaide on 12 September 1893, and by a daughter; two sons and two daughters predeceased him.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Iredale, 33 Years of Cricket (Syd, 1920)
  • A. G. Moyes, Australian Bowlers: From Spofforth to Lindwall (Syd, 1953)
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1943
  • Sporting Globe, 22 Jan 1941, 27 Nov 1943
  • private information.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Jones, Ernest (1869–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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