Mark Daniel Stoneman
June 26, 1987, Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland
Left hand bat
Right arm offbreak
Top order batter
Mark Stoneman, a phlegmatic and understated left-handed opening batsman, had passed his 30th birthday when England finally came calling and his wealth of experience contributed to some peppery resistance on England's unsuccessful 2017-18 tour of Australia, particularly when he was assaulted by the short ball in Perth. But the Test breakthrough that had coincided with his move from Durham to Surrey never quite resulted in satisfactory returns. None of his five half-centuries went beyond 60 and he was omitted after 11 Tests with an average of 27. His last Test innings had an element of ill luck as Pakistan's legspinner Shadab Khan scuttled one through at shin height out of the footholes. He had won his place at the expense of his close friend and former Durham team-mate Keaton Jennings and, in a role reversal, it was Jennings who replaced him.
At Durham, Stoneman had long been regarded as the most reliable opening batsmen in county cricket. Strong square of the wicket, he had eventually prospered in the English game's most northerly outpost like few before him. Yet as he approached his 30th birthday he must have wondered if England would ever come calling. An unobtrusive batting style is one thing, invisibility quite another, but all that changed when Durham hit the financial rocks and, as part of a mass exodus, he moved from Durham to Surrey.
The switch enabled him to revive his relationship with Michael di Venuto, Surrey's coach and a mentor at Durham. By the end of his first run-strewn season in the capital, he had three Test caps against West Indies - making one half-century at Headingley - and Trevor Bayliss, England's coach, who had admitted he had never watched him live, was impressed enough to favour his selection for the Ashes tour of 2017/18.
Surrey gained a batsman who had passed 1,000 first-class runs for four successive seasons and with ambition still evident. Another 1,000-run season, including a career-best 197 against Essex, ensured that desire was satisfied in a summer where Surrey boasted the top three Championship run-makers in the country - Kumar Sangakkara, Rory Burns and Stoneman - all taking advantage of true Oval surfaces. There was a high-profile one-day innings too - 144 against Notts in the Royal London Cup final, even it was overshadowed when Alex Hales retorted with a match-winning 187, the highest score ever made in a Lord's final.
He struggled to regain his form after being dropped by England in 2018, and averaged a fraction under 30 in the Championship in 2019.
Stoneman did attract England's interest as a teenager. He played at Under-17 and Under-19 level for England, making his bow for the Under-19s in the 2006 World Cup in Sri Lanka, although he had a miserable time, registering just 20 runs in four innings, and trashed a dressing room in frustration after he was dropped. He also spent five seasons with St George in Sydney Grade.
He broke into the Durham first team at 20 in the second half of the 2007 season, hitting 50 in his second match against Hampshire before making a real impression with a patient 101 from 232 balls in the victory over Sussex to keep Durham in the title race. But it was a considerable time before his potential began to be realised. He was part of the Championship-winning squads in 2008 and 2009 but only began to lay claim to a regular place at the top of the order upon the retirement of Australian Michael Di Venuto.
His second Championship century some four years after his first, in August 2011, and it was another year before he made his third. His career average refused to rise much above 30, and it was limited-overs cricket where he first began to make an impact. His 40-over form was outstanding in 2012 and one of three hundreds included an unbeaten 136 against Scotland at Chester-le-Street, his highest score at that time.
He was the club's Batsmen of the Year in 2012 and, as his confidence spread into the four-day game, was a key player in Durham's 2013 title season - indeed, Stoneman and Scott Borthwick passed 1,000 first-class runs in successive seasons, a feat strikingly out of kilter with Durham's history. He also captained the side when Paul Collingwood was out injured, an indication of the growing respect in which he was held, and as one-day captain led Durham to the Royal London Cup in 2014.
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