Stoneman chips away to book Ashes spot

Latest England opener does enough against West Indies to have pundits calling for him to be a lock to face the Aussies

Mark Stoneman has taken Test three innings to post his first significant score for England and it might be enough to secure the Surrey opener's place on the forthcoming Ashes tour.

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Stoneman, playing in just his second Test, finally managed to settle himself after dismissals for eight on debut at Edgbaston last week and 19 in the first innings of this second Test in Leeds.

His score of 52 might not have been the century that would have surely put his Ashes place beyond doubt.

Mark Stoneman reached his maiden Test fifty in his third innings // Getty
Mark Stoneman reached his maiden Test fifty in his third innings // Getty

However, coming in a real pressure situation, with England beginning their second innings with a 169-run deficit, it showed character, guts and skill against opposition in West Indies who have rediscovered their ruthless streak after the innings hammering they suffered in the series opener in Birmingham.

What was even more impressive about this innings was the fact Stoneman dislocated the little finger on his left hand when he was struck by West Indies captain Jason Holder in the first over after tea. On 35 at the time, the Geordie batsman had the digit reset on the field and battled through the pain to reach fifty.

Vaughan's above comment might have been a tad premature. Yet it shows the desperation from followers of England over the opening position that has been a selection headache for half a decade now.

Stoneman is former captain Alastair Cook's 12th opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012.

The only other viable option instead of the 30-year-old for the Ashes series would be Haseeb Hameed, Cook's 10th post-Strauss partner who has not been seen since last year's tour of India.

Hameed impressed as a teenager on that tour in late 2016 but has since struggled to score runs for Lancashire this summer, making just one first-class half-century.

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Stoneman then has the will of everybody to do well. He will be confident of building on this start in the final Test against West Indies at Lord's early next month.

For now, though, he is enjoying the moment.

"It has been quite a road to get here and I'm trying to embrace every opportunity and every innings that I play, never looking further forward than the next innings I go out to bat," said Stoneman.

A Shannon Gabriel special bowled Stoneman for 52 // Getty
A Shannon Gabriel special bowled Stoneman for 52 // Getty

"I was disappointed with my first Test innings but once I got through the first 20 balls of this innings you forget about the scrutiny that is going on behind the scenes and it was nice then to get in the contest and forget about everything else that does go on."

For Vaughan, speaking on BBC's Test Match Special at the close of play, Stoneman's poise bodes well for the future.

"Stoneman was very impressive," he said. "He played with great control. He's a dasher at county level but he played with nice restraint.

"I've seen enough that he should play in Australia as an opening batsman."

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21