Mark Stoneman has revealed that he came close to being dropped recently following a frustrating dip in form with the bat for Surrey.
The 32-year-old’s 100 in 220 minutes against Yorkshire – his first championship hundred of the campaign – was instrumental in keeping the South London club in the hunt for a second successive Division One victory in as many weeks.
But the Oval outfit did not have it all their own way up at Scarborough as they were bowled out for 194 in their second innings with the hosts victorious by 123 runs.
“I would have loved to have gone on a lot longer than I did, but in the context of the game and the way I went about it, I was pretty happy,” said the left-hander.
“Thankfully it gave us a small lead, which we thought we could capitalise on.
“All in all, the second day could have gone better for us. We definitely left some runs out there. For what we’re capable of as a group, we didn’t capitalise enough on the starts we made. But at the halfway stage we were in a good position on a good cricket wicket. It was a surface where if you made good decisions and executed properly, you could keep yourself there for a while.”
Stoneman came into the championship campaign on the back of a hundred against Durham University. However, the alarm bells started to ring when, after averaging just 20.25 in the Royal London One-Day Cup, he went seven innings without passing 21.
“I earned a bit of a reprieve a couple of weeks ago when Rory Burns went down with a bad back,” said Stoneman. “I think I was about to get a tap on the shoulder. But since then I’ve left the baggage of the early part of the season behind and just got on with the innings in front of me. The last two or three games I’ve played a lot better by keeping things simple.”
Indeed, in the absence of Burns for the Yorkshire clash at Guildford, Stoneman made 61, which he followed up with knocks of 33 and 71 in last week’s 74-run victory over Warwickshire.
Stoneman says he has always been quite tough when analysing himself, but after losing his England place a year ago things were soon put into perspective.
“I felt I was starting to get my head around Test cricket just as my performances were tailing off,” said Stoneman. “I felt there were periods when I was putting some good things together, but I didn’t go on to make the big score that gives you that chance to breathe.
“After I was dropped, it took a bit of time to get back to my level of performance for Surrey. But then my first child, Leo, arrived and that was quite a tough period. He was born with a heart defect, so that was a leveller. It put everything into context.”
Australia legend Ricky Ponting has emerged as the favourite to coach the Oval’s Hundred franchise next summer, which, according to reports, will be called Oval Greats.
Surrey, eager for the name to identify with the Oval, rejected the four names initially proposed by the England and Wales Cricket Board – London Fuse, London X, London Union and London Rebels.
Ponting is assistant to Justin Langer for Australia’s World Cup and head coach of the Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League.
The player draft will take place on 20 October. The ECB are expected to announce the coaching appointments after the end of the World Cup.