Stoneman is the rock at the top for England
Strauss hails opener for success
ANDREW Strauss, England’s director of cricket, has backed Mark Stoneman to thrive in Australia during this winter’s Ashes series .
The Surrey opener is former captain Alastair Cook’s 12th partner at the top of the order since Strauss retired at the end of the 2012 summer.
Stoneman has one half-century from three Tests so far having made his debut in the series against West Indies at Edgbaston last month and returned to Surrey with a century against Yorkshire at the Oval last week.
But Strauss believes he has the potential to solve England’s longrunning opening issue and, after speaking to coach Trevor Bayliss, has backed the 30-year-old to prove it in Australia.
“I think he has a simple, natural way he bats on the front and back foot,” said Strauss. “On the surface that looks like a couple of good weapons he has in his armoury.
“Trevor has talked about how he comes across as a tough, streetwise cricketer and he will have benefitted from all those years of county cricket and getting to know himself.
“He has made a positive impression. I am a little bit loathe to say he is going to have a long England career because we have seen examples of people falling away. He has a great opportunity and it is great to see him going back to Surrey and scoring runs. He is in good form and looks like he can play at that level now.”
Strauss also believes Cook can have a productive winter after stepping away from the Test captaincy. The Essex opener scored 766 runs when he was partnered by Strauss on England’s successful 2010-11 Ashes tour and his former captain thinks he could cause Australia more damage this winter.
“I think he has reacted exceptionally well to stepping away from the captaincy,” said Strauss.
“For some people that can impart thoughts of retirement. I have not seen any signs of that.
“Alastair has battled away really well in tough conditions this summer.
“He will feed off his previous experiences in Australia this winter and will go there in a positive frame of mind.”
England will name their 16-man squad for Australia next week, with Tom Westley and Dawid Malan expected to be in it. Alex Hales, though, is set to miss out despite a positive summer for Nottinghamshire.
Toby Roland-Jones is also a doubt after picking up a side strain playing for Middlesex last week, although England are still likely to name him in their party.
Made of Stone: Mark Stoneman has looked solid if unspectacular at the top of the order for England
Confident: Andrew Strauss