Mark Stoneman puts Ashes talk on ice despite maiden Test fifty
Last Updated: 28/08/17 1:12pm
Mark Stoneman insists an Ashes spot could not be further from his thoughts after bolstering his bid for a place on this winter's tour to Australia with a maiden fifty on day three of the second Test against Windies.
Stoneman struck 52 off 124 balls in only his second match since replacing Keaton Jennings at the top of the order to help England turn a first-innings deficit of 169 into a two-run lead at stumps, the Surrey batsman one of three wickets to fall along the way.
The 30-year-old sustained a dislocated finger during his innings after being struck on the hand by a rising Jason Holder delivery but batted on after receiving treatment from the physio before being bowled off-stump by a brilliant delivery from Shannon Gabriel.
Speaking to Sky Sports Cricket's Ian Ward at the end of the day at Headingley, Stoneman said his sole focus for now is scoring as heavily as possible against Windies rather than the battle for the urn further down the road.
"It has been quite a road to get here and I'm trying to embrace every opportunity and every innings that I play, never looking any further forward than the next time I go out to bat," he said.
"The first Test was quite exciting. Then after the first innings it was disappointing but once I got through the first 20 balls of this innings you forget about the scrutiny that is going on behind the scenes about how you play each ball - that's just part and parcel of the job - and it was nice then to get in the contest and get into game mode and forget about everything else that does go on."
Stoneman believes that setting Windies a target of 200 would give England the edge, the tourists having to bat last on a pitch offering the seamers assistance.
"It's not the kind of surface where you're always going to be free-flowing - there's plenty on offer for the seamers and it comes off at different paces sometimes," he said. "We knew it was going to be hard work and just tried to grind it out.
"We want as many possible - I don't think we want to be putting numbers on it at this stage but if we get up around 200 with the quality of the seam attack that we do have and spin options too, we'll definitely be in the game."
Stoneman scored just eight on his Test debut in the first day-night Test in England before he was bowled by a close-to-unplayable Kemar Roach delivery, then made 19 in his first knock at Headingley and says the step up to five-day cricket has been stimulating.
"There's not as many loose balls kicking around - there are always homing in on or around that off-stump trying to work you out.
"It's a fantastic challenge and amongst the group, they've been a great bunch of lads and very welcoming, so that side of things is very relaxed."
Watch day four of the second Test between England and Windies live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am, with over-by-over commentary and in-play video clips on our live blog, available on Sky Sports digital platforms.