It now looks certain that England will turn to Surrey’s Mark Stoneman come the first Test against South Africa commencing July 6th. The former Durham opening batsman registered scores of 58 and 86 for England Lions against South Africa A this week.
Any previous posts by yours truly that made wild predictions of England Test line-ups can likely be forgotten…
With Haseeb Hameed’s run pool run dry and despite Moeen Ali’s not so subtle hints that he’d like to bat at five (He’s likely to stay at eight), England’s batting department at Lords will probably look like this:
Joe Root (C)
After that it becomes a bit of blur dependent on fitness to the men in possession, messrs Anderson, Broad and Woakes.
Returning to Stoneman, he’s a player that I’ve wanted to see capped before but felt that whilst at Durham he was too often dismissed in the thirties and forties. A First Class career average of 34.20 (And that’s gone up this year) confirms such. The left-hander averages a healthy 39.20 in List A cricket. The journey south (Remember them?)…
and a reuniting with his coach, former Ozzie ODI opener Michael Di Venuto, has seen Stoneman prosper and usurp Durham to Surrey twin Scott Borthwick in the international pecking order. It seems unlikely that Adil Rashid will get to play a Test on home soil soon and that when England do require a second spinner, it will be Mason Crane. That leaves Moeen down at eight for the time being. Gary Ballance demands selection and with Joe Root expected to bat at four, Keaton Jennings will be at three. Hameed will be left to pick up the pieces in the County Championship and possibly for the Lions come the winter. England have gone through many opening batsman in recent times, from Sam Robson (Called up to the Lions today) to Adam Lyth, Michael Carberry to Ben Duckett and Nick Compton to Alex Hales. When they do select Stoneman, they need to make a commitment to stick with him, invest in the failures and opportunity to learn and play him throughout the South Africa and West Indies series and the Ashes as well as into next summer. Only then should they consider jettisoning him if they haven’t reaped the rewards. To pick another opener for between four and seven Tests, maybe even see him score a hundred, then move onto someone else would be a failure to live and learn on the part of the England hierarchy.
Let’s hope Mark rolls like a stone!