To say that Mark Stoneman did not have a great Ashes series would be an understatement. The 30-year-old opener scored the second lowest amount of runs in the series out of any member of England’s top seven, barring Moeen Ali.
The Surrey man scored just 232 runs in his nine Ashes innings at an average of 25.77 and as a result it is only natural that his place in the team will be questioned and that is just what ex-England captain Michael Vaughan did on the latest edition of BBC 5 Live’s Tuffers and Vaughan Show which he fronts with fellow Test Match Special commentator and ex-England spinner Phil Tuffnell.
Vaughan called Stoneman “lucky” to keep his place in the side and after being questioned by Tuffnell, the Ashes winner then explained “He’s lucky because I studied the way that he practiced in Australia and I don’t think he practiced like an international cricketer. I didn’t see enough in the nets.”
He then went on to compare what he saw of Stoneman’s preparation to that of Dawid Malan, who finished the Ashes as England’s highest run-scorer and the fourth-highest overall with 383 runs at an average of 42.55, stating that “He sends the message to me Malan, that he’s willing to do that extra yard. He’s willing to put the extra effort in in practice”, suggesting that Stoneman does not.
Obviously, Stoneman’s Ashes statistics are far from flattering for him but it is early in his international career, having played just the three Tests prior to the Ashes series, so surely he deserves to be given more than just a series against the best bowling attack in world cricket to try and establish himself as an international cricketer?
Stoneman is one of those players who has consistently been netting over 1,000 runs in the County Championship for many years and clearly deserves his chance as one of the best performers in the domestic game.
Also, considering he has been playing professionally for over a decade there is absolutely no doubt that the person who knows his game the best is Stoneman himself, which would make him the best person to know how he should practice and train – not someone who has seen very little of Stoneman over his extensive career like Vaughan.
While Michael Vaughan was clearly a great batsman and a great captain, does he not know that every player is different, has a different technique, a different style, a different character and thus train in different ways.
Furthermore, is it not down to the coaches to up Stoneman’s workload if, like Vaughan suggests, he is not doing enough and surely with a world-class setup like England’s this would have been picked up on, addressed and no longer be an issue if it even was one to begin with.
As an opener, Stoneman has the hardest job in the entire batting line-up and it is no coincidence that since Andrew Strauss’ retirement in 2012, England have struggled to find a replacement partner for Alastair Cook at the top of the order.
Stoneman, as the latest incumbent, attempted to fend off an Australian fast bowling attack made up of three 90mph+ fast bowlers against the new ball and showed some fight and grit on his way to making two fifties in the series even though he was dismissed early throughout the series – something which was almost inevitable given the quality of the bowlers and the conditions which Stoneman was facing.
Clearly the amount of runs he scored was below par but Stoneman showed a lot of the qualities that you need to succeed at international cricket by battling after getting hit by bouncers and does not have an obvious flaw in his technique which is what has undone previous openers before him.
All in all, Stoneman may not have had a successful series down under but he definitely deserves to be given another chance in this series against New Zealand. There has been far too much chopping and changing when it comes to Alastair Cook’s opening partners in recent years and there is no clear reason as to why Stoneman does not have all the tools to succeed as a Test match player. All he needs is a few runs against New Zealand to build his confidence and he will be in possession of the opening role for the foreseeable future.