BY MARCUS HOOK
So far, the 2019 season has not gone as Mark Stoneman or Surrey would have wanted – the former Durham and England opener scoring just 271 runs at an average of 24.63 in the County Championship.
Stoneman admits he has found some interesting ways of getting out, but his confident 61 off 72 balls against Yorkshire, made in exacting conditions, underlined just why the 31-year-old has racked up 22 hundreds and five 1,000-plus run seasons in first-class cricket.
“I think I’ve gone through every possible dismissal this season,” said the left-hander. “There’s no rhyme or reason why it’s gone that way. It’s just been a question of seeing it through. I’m not a big believer in luck, to be honest. I’ve made one or two mistakes, but, in general, everything’s been how I want it to be.
“I felt pretty good against Yorkshire, but I have felt in decent nick recently without getting the runs – in terms of how I have been hitting the ball and moving my feet – so it was pleasing to make a contribution.
“I would have loved to have cashed in and made a really big score after a barren run. The runs haven’t been there for me, but hopefully that’s gone now.”
Stoneman added: “We had some good performances on Tuesday, in tricky conditions. We could be greedy and say someone could have gone on and made a hundred from the starts we had, but having been put in we came out with a pretty strong and bounced back after a disappointing performance against Somerset last week.
“The new ball always offers something, so it was a case of getting stuck in and to make the most of what was given to us.”
But the man everyone is now talking about is 18-year-old Surrey batsman, Jamie Smith, who hit a well-organised 56 on championship debut.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but Jamie looks a special player for the future,” said Stoneman. “His attitude, he comes in, he’s always learning without being an absolute badger. He doesn’t put too much pressure on himself or over-think the game.
“He just goes out there and does his thing. It doesn’t matter who’s bowling. He doesn’t over-hype situations and he played some really good shots in that innings against Yorkshire.
“He looks like he’s got that little bit of something, not too dissimilar to how Ollie Pope strode out when he was first starting off. Hopefully, he’ll have a good run just like Popey.
“He’s got all the shots and, so far, he seems to have the temperament. It would be really nice to see him nail down a spot in the team and do well.”
Being an older and wiser head, Stoneman admits to being chuffed when Surrey’s clutch of young batters want to pick his brain.
“I try not to get involved too much. All of the young lads are well prepared in terms of playing at this level. So, for me, it’s a case of just being there for them.
“Sometimes they’ll want little bits of information off you, whether it’s the bowlers we’re facing or the pitches we’re playing on, situations they haven’t come across before… and they’re fast learners so they soak a lot up.”
PICTURE BY KEITH GILLARD