Norfolk star Stone eyeing a return to England scene
PUBLISHED: 10:32 31 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:32 31 January 2020
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Norfolk cricket star Olly Stone has set his sights on a return to the England set-up in 2020 as he hopes “the injuries are behind me” after a training camp with an England record breaker.
After coming through a bowling camp in South Africa with England pair James Anderson and Mark Wood, the former Thorpe St Andrew school pupil says he is making "good progress" as he prepares for the upcoming season with Warwickshire.
He broke into the England set-up in 2018, but his season was cut short after a stress fracture in his back all but ended his chances of featuring in last summer's Ashes series, but was hopeful at a quick return to the Test fold.
Stone, who grew up in Brundall and played for Vauxhall Mallards, said: "We were back just after the new year, we have gradually upped the workload and I'm feeling good. I had a good break from cricket and worked hard on my fitness.
"I've lost a bit of weight. We've worked on changing the bowling action a little bit too, standing up through it a bit more. My body is responding well, I feel good."
The 26-year-old was impressed with how a youthful England side had turned the series around in South Africa saying the signs for the younger guys were there when he was first introduced to the squad.-
"Everyone was very welcoming. I was made to feel like I had been in the squad for years. It makes you relax a lot more and not feel like you have to immediately contribute.
"It's encouraging knowing you are going to get a good run in the team when you get in. It takes the pressure off a little and gives you that platform to perform. We are seeing it now with players like Pope and Sibley."
With his latest injury setback behind him, Stone came to the realisation that "you never know when your last game will be" so had used his time away from the game to look towards life after cricket.
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"I was at a recent workshop with Warwickshire and I was maybe guilty of having a mentality that I didn't need to worry about it for a while, but after the injuries I realised I had nothing to fall back on.
"I've been trying to gain a bit of experience and figure out what I enjoy doing. I'm a Norwich City fan, I've done a bit of work covering a match day. That's been good fun although it seems to be the same story every week on the pitch."
For now Stone firmly has his sights on the pre-season ahead knowing a strong start to the season can put him back in the selectors' plans.
He said: "In a way it's an ideal start to the season. There are seven championship games then there is a series again the West Indies. Hopefully I can get a good run in before then and leave it with the selectors. I'm happy with the way training has gone this far. I'm still finding that balance between really letting the ball go and not over-doing it. But by the time the season comes around I'm confident I will be steaming in, which will be great."
The prospect of linking up with a host of England quick bowlers should be good news for cricket fans across the country which could add a new dimension to the bowling attack when Anderson and Broad retire.
"We saw in the recent Ashes series that pace played a significant role," said Stone. "To have as many genuine quick bowlers as we do, can only be a good thing. If we are all fit and firing it that could be quite important and be very exciting for everyone.
"I don't think you can ever have too many fast bowlers. There's nothing worse than seeing off one then another one comes straight on.
"Obviously it will be tough when we do lose these two. I would imagine they will go quite close to each other but I think they have a few more years yet."
Despite the numerous injury set-backs the England man feels he is experienced enough to come back a better player.
Stone said: "I don't look at my injuries as unlucky or unfortunate. I just try to get on with it and get back to being fit and use it as a way to improve my game and find new things that work for me.
"There is no immediate rush to get back under prepared but obviously the sooner the better and try and push myself back into that England squad".