Ahead of the first Test match against West Indies starting Thursday (August 17), England captain Joe has said he wants to see Mark Stoneman taking his chance.
With an eye on this year’s Ashes, England dropped an under-performing Keaton Jennings to include the Surrey opener in the squad for the three-match series against West Indies, as the Joe Root & Co. will be desperate to have their opening woes sorted as quickly as possible.
Ever since Andrew Strauss’ retirement in 2012, England have tried as many as 11 different batting partners for Alastair Cook and are yet to find an able replacement for the former captain. Stoneman will be the latest to try his luck after the 30-year-old was included in the playing eleven for the historic day-night Test at Edgbaston.
The left-handed batsman has replaced Keaton Jennings who looked completely out of sorts in the four-match series against South Africa, scoring just 127 runs in eight innings. Stoneman has been in fine form this season and has scored more than 1,000 first-class runs at an impressive average of 58.82.
“He’s obviously got a huge amount of runs under his belt this year, in particular, and in previous seasons as well,” Root told Sky Sports. “He’s got a well-rounded game, he’s a bit more experienced having played a lot of county cricket and I’m excited to see him go and hopefully take his opportunity.”
“Ideally you want some to come in and set the world alight and their career moves forward from there,” Root said. “But I’d like to think he’ll [Stoneman] get a very good opportunity and some good game time with England. This is just a great opportunity for Mark to go out and show everyone how good a player he is.”
With just three Tests remaining before England take on Australia in the Ashes, Stoneman has got a good chance to get himself in the frame for the tour to Down Under.
Meanwhile, England would also be keen to see their new number three, Tom Westley settling down. After replacing an injured and out of form Garry Ballance for the last two Tests against South Africa, Westley gave some encouraging performance but is yet to play a big knock. Another newcomer Dawid Malan, on the other hand, failed to impress at all, scoring just 35 runs in four innings.
“Of course you want [the top order] to be settled,” said Root. “You never want to go into a series with guys out of form or under pressure but I think that is one of the challenges of Test cricket. And, as a side, generally, we’ve responded quite well to that in the past.”
Speaking about the first day-night Test to be played in England, Root said: “I think it is a great opportunity for the rest of the guys to experience a pink-ball Test match for the first time and I’m really excited to get the week going. I think there are different challenges that [the pink ball] brings and at different times of the day than you’d normally expect in Test cricket.
“But, ultimately, it is still the same fundamentals of cricket and you’ve just got to make sure that when those difficult periods crop up that we respond well and quickly. I think it’s great that we’re giving [day-night Test cricket] the opportunity to work here, I’m sure it’ll be a very exciting spectacle. It’ll be interesting to see how this week pans out,” he added.