Mark Stoneman's Ashes Diary: Chapter 1 - Playing for England my 'ultimate dream'
"It's going to be practically impossible to mirror the level of bowling we will face in the first Test. Australia certainly weren't going to roll out their A side to give us the best build-up possible."
By Mark Stoneman - @mark23stone
Last Updated: 14/11/17 6:20pm
In-form England opener Mark Stoneman begins his exclusive Ashes Diary for Sky Sports, talking batting with Joe Root, James Vince’s etiquette and the evergreen Paul Collingwood, as he fulfils his "ultimate dream"…
If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I'd be poised to open the batting for England in the Ashes in Australia, I'd have bitten their hand off.
I was at a bit of a crossroads in terms of where my career was headed but I was able to keep faith in myself, stick with the upward trend that my batting was headed in and keep making progress.
Leaving Durham was a massive call - it was everything I had known. I had played my whole career there and had family and friends. It was my life.
Their support helped me make the move to Surrey and pursue the ultimate dream, which was to play for England. Hopefully playing in the Ashes justifies such a big decision.
My form in Australia has been good, with three fifties in as many innings, although it is disappointing that I haven't been able to reach three figures just yet. I am moving well, seeing and playing the ball quite nicely and it's now a case of ramping things up for November 23.
The ball comes onto the bat quite well in Australia and quite a few of my scoring shots over here so far have been drives. I am confident that I am getting my weight into the ball but it's certainly going to be a step up in Brisbane.
I've heard that the wicket in Townsville for our final warm-up is a decent one - in Adelaide the pitch was sluggish and the outfield even more, so it wasn't great for free scoring.
A bit has been made about there not being a great deal of pace in the Cricket Australia XI attack but their bowlers are steady operators and found control in Adelaide.
It's going to be practically impossible to mirror the level of bowling we will face in the first Test against Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, especially with other senior bowlers in Sheffield Shield action for their state sides.
Australia certainly weren't going to roll out their A side to give us the best build-up possible, but it is valuable game time and time in the middle. For us it's all about climbing the graph and peaking come the first day of the Ashes. The next week is going to be massive in gearing up to the maximum.
I enjoyed a good partnership at the WACA with James Vince - who is still my roommate on tour, by the way, and a good one that; clean, tidy and punctual. I had another with Joe Root in our first innings in Adelaide.
Joe brings a real good energy to the crease and doesn't miss out on any scoring opportunities. People are desperate to get him out early so look to push the ball a bit fuller and crank up their pace as best they can but, more often than not, he capitalises.
He pushes the fielders in the deep and is a great judge of a quick single - that intensity he plays with and the pressure he puts on the opposition is great for us.
As a skipper he gives us the freedom play to the best of our ability, he really trusts in our methods, but if things need to be said or if he has any advice to impart, he is always there do that.
We've got another lad with a cheeky grin on tour, too, in Mason Crane - as the youngest lad around he has been a bit mischievous and I had a go back at him on Instagram…
The energy among the whole group has been fantastic.
Jimmy, Broady, and Cooky have been around a long time and seen and done it all, but they are just as excited as the youngsters - and myself - who are on their first tour.
Tom Curran, my Surrey team-mate, will add to that having been called up to replace Steve Finn, who is unfortunately injured - Tom loves life and puts in a tremendous amount of work.
Away from the cricket, a lot of the lads have been paintballing and drinking the quality coffee over here.
Paul Collingwood and I took on Mark Ramprakash and Phil Neale, our operations manager, in a round of golf. We came out on top but I will readily admit that my game is a work in progress!
Colly was also out fielding for us for an over in our Adelaide warm-up and he loved it - he got a diving stop in and a run-out attempt. He is older and wiser but still has the legs.
It's between him and Ben Stokes for the best fielder I have ever played with - Collingwood would probably be the best backward point I've come across.
Everything that he has done and achieved, plus his pursuit of improvement and ways to be successful, makes him a fantastic role model for the group.
Mark Stoneman on England's Ashes vice-captain James Anderson