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Stoneman in fine form with bat as Test on a knife-edge

 

By Rory Dollard

England opener Mark Stoneman admitted the intensity of the battle against the West Indies helped him put the Ashes, the pundits and even a dislocated little finger out of his mind at Headingley.

After three days, the second Investec Test is balanced on a knife-edge, England with a two-run lead on 171 for three and everything up for grabs.

As is so often the case, Joe Root holds the key for his side, resuming on 45 not out as he and Dawid Malan (21 not out) look to turn their 77-run stand into a defendable target.

But Stoneman be proud of his contribution. Striding out for just his third Test innings, with a 169-run deficit to clear, he made a gutsy 52 in what effectively serves as an audition for this winter's Australia tour.

If that was not enough, the 30-year-old also had to deal with a nasty blow to the left glove, which required remedial action from physio Craig de Weymarn.

That may seem like a lot to cope with, but Stoneman said: "It was really good, the way the game panned out allowed us to forget about things on the periphery.

"You're obviously under a bit of pressure - they're looking to take wickets with the new ball. It was nice to get a couple away and feel the middle of the bat."

And while the selectors will surely be thinking very clearly about the Ashes, Stoneman insists to follow suit would be a luxury after several years waiting for his Test opportunity.

"Just getting here was a long enough road, so to start trying to forecast anything beyond my next innings would be daft," he said.

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