NEWS

Mark Stoneman hits first century of Ashes tour

November 16, 2017

Opener Mark Stoneman has hit the first century by an England batsman of the Ashes tour as Joe Root's men continued to dominate against a Cricket Australia XI in Townsville. 

After Chris Woakes took six wickets on the first day to leave the hosts on 249-9 overnight, England finished off the tail for the addition of just one more run, Stuart Broad taking the last wicket.

It was then the turn of England's batsmen to dominate and Stoneman answered coach Trevor Bayliss's call to turn half-centuries into big scores, making 111 as England piled up 337-3.

He put on 172 for the first wicket with Alastair Cook, who made 70 to find some form after a difficult start to the tour. 

James Vince was the one man to miss out as he was dismissed for 26, but by the close, Joe Root was unbeaten on 62 and Dawid Malan 57 not out. 

England now have the choice of batting on through the final day to try to add more centurions and let the lower order have time in the middle, or declare sooner to allow their bowlers a chance to win the game and give the team more momentum before the first Test.

Fans booking corporate hospitality for next summer's Test match at the Kia Oval against India will be hoping England can come home with the famous urn, but to do that may require a strong start against the Aussies in the first Test at Brisbane. Not since the 1954-55 series - when Frank Tyson bowled as fast for England as Mitchell Johnson did for Australia in 2013-14 - have they won the Ashes overseas after losing at the Gabba. 

In England's last Ashes series win down under in 2010-11, they drew at Brisbane, while the previous victorious tour in 1986-87 saw their most recent win in the Queensland capital. Australia have not lost a Test to anyone since 1988 and the ground has become known as the 'Gabbatoir' for its effect on touring teams. 

With a fast, bouncy pitch, a vocal crowd and a full-strength Australia to contend with, the first Test will be a big step up from playing an understrength side on a slow surface in a country town. 

However, if the England side can go on building up their form, they may yet find the gentle introduction to the tour gives them the confidence and momentum they are looking for before they enter the cauldron of the Gabba. 

In particular, the fact that Cook has been able to find some form may come back to haunt the Aussies. His monstrous haul of 766 runs in the 2010-11 series was instrumental in setting up the English victory. Indeed, his feat of making three centuries in a series down under made him one of only six Englishmen to do so. If anyone can repeat that feat, it will almost certainly secure the Ashes, for of this exclusive group only Michael Vaughan in 2002-03 was so prolific in a losing cause.
 
For Mark Stoneman, who is yet to make a century in his three Tests, that would be a dream scenario. But if he and Cook can at least compile some century opening stands when the real action starts, England will have real reason for optimism.

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