Stoneman looks to impress in New Zealand Tests after steady Ashes campaign
Mark Stoneman needs to establish himself at the top of the order for England in New Zealand
Mark Stoneman admits he will be “on trial” in England’s two-Test series against New Zealand.
Stoneman is well aware he failed to take the chances in this winter’s 4-0 Ashes defeat which might have established him as a lasting opening partner for all-time national record runscorer Alastair Cook.
Instead, after a campaign which brought Stoneman 232 runs at an average of 25.77, he knows he must restate his claims against another high-quality pace attack here.
For Australia’s Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, read New Zealand’s Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner – pace marginally down, but swing prevalent again.
Two months after packing away the Ashes with an innings defeat in the final Test in Sydney, Stoneman said: “I think I’ve got myself on trial really.”
But following the first net session of a week in Hamilton before Auckland’s inaugural pink-ball Test next week, he spelled out too that he will not lack for self-confidence.
Boys are back in town ... Broad to Cook in Hamilton nets as England switch to Test mode. pic.twitter.com/KpGpEdoahH— David Clough (@DavidBClough) March 12, 2018
“I always put myself under pressure and can be my own worst critic at times.
“I’m expecting good things of myself – that’s the most important thing.”
England’s selectors have demonstrated belief too, by selecting him for this tour.
In their home conditions, I’m sure they’re going to be a handful ... I don’t expect anything to be easy in Test cricket
“It’s nice to have that bit of faith in you,” added the 30-year-old left-hander.
“They’ve seen something in what I’ve done so far to show there’s a good international career to be unlocked – so that’s the kind of expectations and pressure I’m putting on myself to fulfil that.”
Stoneman made two early half-centuries in Australia, but mustered just 42 more runs in four innings after being hit on the helmet during a brilliant barrage of short bowling from Hazlewood in Perth.
He gives no credence, however, to the theory that blow might have spooked him.“I think it was just coincidental on the back of that, and it was unfortunate I wasn’t able to finish the series stronger,” he said, before acknowledging there will be no gimme runs against the Kiwis either.
“It’s Test cricket, and New Zealand have got some world-class operators.
“In their home conditions, I’m sure they’re going to be a handful … I don’t expect anything to be easy in Test cricket.”
As for the Ashes, Stoneman will neither hide from shortcomings nor dwell on them either.
“It was obviously disappointing,” he said.
“On a personal note, there was good stuff in there, but I think I left myself a bit short at times as well.”
He insists he is capable of better – but knows, with a sub-30 average after eight Tests, he must prove it soon.
“I’m hungry for runs and I feel as though I’ve got it in myself to really perform at this level.
“I’ve shown glimpses.
“But that’s been the problem – it’s only been glimpses so far – and if I can go on and do some really good stuff here I hope I can have a successful international career.”
For inspiration, it is handy that he need look no further than 22 yards up the pitch to watch Cook showing how it is done – as he did with a wonderful double-century in the drawn Boxing Day Test.
“There’s no finer example than Cooky,” said Stoneman.
“He showed a classic example of everything he’s about as a player in that double-hundred he scored in Melbourne.”