Mark Stoneman’s Ashes Diary: Chapter 2 – England will embrace Gabba ‘fortress’

In his latest Ashes Diary, opener Mark Stoneman reflects on his first century in an England shirt, a three-figure score he was less happy with and looks ahead to the series opener in Brisbane…

After three fifties in the first two tour matches, it was great to take that one step further and get my first hundred in an England shirt in Townsville. It was just good to keep the run-scoring going and continue the habits that I’ve been trying to stick to throughout the warm-up games.

It’s always nice when you look up at the board and have three figures to your name, it gives you that extra bit of confidence that the things you are doing, you’re doing right.

Test hundreds are what we’re here for but getting a couple of centuries before the series starts on Thursday is another box ticked.

We’ve spoken about trying to gear things up and have the momentum heading in the right direction ahead of this week and we’ve done that by putting a couple of hundreds on the board – it was a good all-round performance from the batting unit.

With the warm-up games done, we’ve arrived in Brisbane and physically we’re exactly where we wanted to be. Batsmen have had time in the middle, the bowlers have had a good run out, overs under their belt and time in the legs out in the field.

We’re in a very good place and in these next couple of days we need to prepare and make sure we’re mentally ready to be firing on Thursday morning.

I haven’t actually been to the Gabba yet, I know Rooty was there to do a bit of extra practice, Jonny Bairstow did some extra ‘keeping and a couple of lads I think were doing a photoshoot by the pool down there. Most of us had the day off though so it was a bit of gym work in the morning and I’ll actually get my first look at the Gabba tomorrow – I can’t wait.

It’s the fortress of Australian cricket really and it has been for many a year. It is something that we just have to embrace and enjoy the challenge of it. They kind of rely on it as a place to get them off to a good start but it has been shown in the past that if teams play well there and get a result then it gets a lot of momentum going your way.

Away from the cricket, we had a couple of nights at the rodeo before we left Townsville which was something a bit different – it was amazing to witness.

Other than that, I’ve mainly spent my spare time playing golf but I had a bit of a stinker today! I couldn’t break 100 which wasn’t ideal after last time out I managed 40 points and got two points docked off my handicap. I did have a shocker today but I guess getting big scores isn’t a bad habit to have going into the series – I’ll try and take the positives and hope it’s a good omen!

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The football before training is as competitive as ever, it’s what gets the bowlers out of bed in the morning. Everybody loves it, it’s great fun. We pick new teams every time we change location which keeps things fresh.

The banter has been great and Jimmy Anderson has also been presenting the ‘Ballon Ashes’ award for player of the week, which Rooty got in the first week, and it makes sure there is something riding on every game for every player.

Broady is one of the lads who rates himself quite highly on the football pitch but he is has the odd stinker every now and again. He goes pretty quiet if he hasn’t had a good day but once something comes off, he certainly lets you know about it in the dressing room.

It gets the hairs standing up on the back of your neck. I’m really up for it and I just want to embrace it and love every moment!

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