Townsville: Mark Stoneman scored the first century of the Ashes tour as Alastair Cook regained form in England’s match against a Cricket Australia XI in Townsville on Thursday. The in-form Surrey left-hander cracked 111 off 159 balls and shared in a 172-run opening stand with former skipper Cook as the tourists clubbed their way to 337 for three at the close on the second day of the four-day game.
In the final warm-up game ahead of next week’s Ashes Test series opener against Australia in Brisbane, Cook finally found some batting form with 70 off 127 balls after a run of low scores. At stumps, captain Joe Root was unbeaten on 62 with Dawid Malan on 57 to cap a pleasing day for the English against a lightweight CA XI bowling attack.
Regardless of the strength of the inexperienced bowling opposition, England’s batsmen spent precious time out in the middle ahead of the first Gabba Test, starting on November 23. Coach Trevor Bayliss had said after England’s thumping 192-run victory over the CA XI in Adelaide last week that his batsmen had to score big.
Stoneman, who has been England’s best-performing batsman on tour with three half-centuries, got on with the job on Thursday before he was caught and bowled by leg-spinner Daniel Fallins immediately after tea.
“It’s very pleasing to get three figures after the starts I’ve had on the tour," Stoneman told reporters. “It’s another level of progression, which is what is required so close to the first Test.
“I’m in decent touch. Everyone has been critical of the opposition we have faced, but I’m fairly happy." Stoneman showed attacking intent from the outset after Stuart Broad had taken the final home wicket to dismiss Cricket Australia for 250.
Stoneman survived a difficult chance to gully on 41 before reaching 50 off 66 balls and a hundred off 140. But if Stoneman was the batting star, the tourists would have been delighted with Cook’s return to form after his fitful start to the tour.
The former captain took 11 balls to get off the mark but once set he hardly looked in trouble until he edged an attempted cut off Matt Short to the keeper on 70. It was a sign that Cook, who plundered 766 runs when England won in Australia seven years ago and had made just 45 runs in three innings so far, that this may have been a personal turning point on tour.
But there was promise of more runs to come on Friday’s third day with Root and Malan on unbeaten half-centuries and the innings lead already at 87. The only downside to the day for the tourists was James Vince, batting at number three, who went for a classy but all too brief 26.
Vince was convinced he had hit a ball from Fallins into the ground before he was taken at short leg but, after consulting, the umpires made what replays suggested was the right decision to give him out.