Stoneman eyes solid progress

By Matthew Sherry

Mark Stoneman will not rest on his laurels after being appointed Durham’s limited-overs captain and is now eyeing international honours.

Stoneman enjoyed a breakthrough season last time out, racking up 1,011 runs as his county won the LV= County Championship title.

And, with the added responsibility of leading Durham in white-ball cricket, the 26-year-old’s stock could hardly be higher.

Stoneman, who hit a hundred versus MCC in Abu Dhabi last month, is now eyeing further runs in the coming campaign as he presses for a place in an England side that appears to have more openings than in recent years.

“It’s one of the benchmarks of county cricket to get 1,000 runs and I am hoping for more of the same,” he said.

“If you look at the guys who were called up to the England Lions, they got towards 1,200 and 1,300 runs and that has got to be the target this year.”

Durham opener Mark Stoneman passed the 1,000-run mark last season and got his 2014 off to a fine start with a century against MCC in Abu Dhabi

While England selection is at the centre of Stoneman’s thoughts, he is realistic enough to know that there may be some people ahead of him in the pecking order.

“There are a couple of spots that are not exactly nailed down in the Test team,” he added.

“The guys who have played the next level up for the England Lions, the likes of Varun Chopra, Alex Lees and Sam Robson, are probably ahead of myself.

“But if you can put some runs on the board early then maybe I can put myself further up the list.

“Yes, the long-term ambition is to play for England but first and foremost I need to get the runs on the board for Durham.”

Stoneman certainly appears on course to do just that, having taken Michael Di Venuto’s old mantle of being the relied-upon opener.

“He came as an international-standard batsman while I am trying to turn myself into one of those,” Stoneman reflected.

“I like to think I have progressed over the last few years and it would be nice to get to the level he did.

“The biggest thing I’ve learnt from him is to try and get a routine and trust what you are doing.

“There are times here batting where you might think you’re making lots of mistakes but it’s then when you have to keep the faith in what you do.

“You ultimately have to stick with what works, even if you get a couple of low scores on bowler-friendly pitches.”

For now, though, he can reflect on the sizeable honour of his recent promotion in the county fold.

“Coming up through the system here to go and be captain is a massive honour that I am really proud of,” he enthused. “And obviously it is really nice for the family as well.”

One imagines the Stonemans will be even more proud if their successful family member is able to achieve his next ambition.

Durham start their championship defence at promoted Northamptonshire on Sunday.

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