Olly Stone targets Test return as he bids to realise Ashes ambition with England

Olly Stone admitted a burning ambition to resume his Test career and get a first taste of Ashes cricket next year is why he has not yet turned exclusively to the shorter formats.

The England fast bowler has had multiple injury issues and the latest of four stress fractures in his back prompted an operation last year to fit a metal screw designed to strengthen his spine.

His luckless run continued when he broke a finger in July and had to go under the knife again, but the 29-year-old still feels he can add to his three Test caps, the most recent of which was in June 2021.

Olly Stone, centre, has made three Test appearances (Mike Egerton/PA)
Olly Stone, centre, has made three Test appearances (Mike Egerton/PA)

Building himself back up in white-ball cricket was always the aim but he has discussed a Test return with England captain Ben Stokes and hopes to be selected for the trip to New Zealand in February.

“I’ve spoken to Stokesy and just said how I want to still play Test cricket, I’ve still got that hunger,” Stones said.

“One of the main reasons why I went down the surgical route with my back was to be able to hopefully withstand that amount of cricket and demand on my body.

“After Christmas there’s a combination of white-ball cricket and franchise cricket that hopefully I can keep my loads up and get me in a place that I can put my hand up and be selectable for Test cricket.

“I’m not quite sure where yet, hopefully I can be involved in the New Zealand stuff then go from there. For me now is getting some good run of cricket under my belt and see what goes from there.”

Stone is currently with England’s ODI squad in Australia but this week he heads on to the Abu Dhabi T10 to play for Chennai Braves, which is remarkably set to be his first experience of franchise cricket.

But as for whether he would consider forgoing red-ball cricket in light of his injury struggles, having featured just nine times in all formats for England in four years, Stone confessed only time will tell.

“There’s nothing better than five days of hard graft and coming off hopefully with a win,” he said.

“That hunger of playing Test cricket and seeing what happens in the Ashes is something I really want to be a part of.

“My main goal in having back surgery was to be able to get back out there and if my body fails me this time then I know I’ve done everything I can and I may have to look down that route unfortunately.

“Fingers crossed it doesn’t come that.”

Injuries have restricted Stone to just 44 first-class appearances since his debut in 2012 (Mike Egerton/PA)
Injuries have restricted Stone to just 44 first-class appearances since his debut in 2012 (Mike Egerton/PA)

Stone has made a couple of tweaks to his action, making a conscious decision to attempt to remove the involuntary jerk of his left arm or leg after his delivery stride which put pressure on his lower back.

But, as he demonstrated in his first ODI appearance in four years at Adelaide on Thursday, he is still capable of reaching 90mph.

“There was always that slight concern that with that surgery, you’re never quite sure you’ll come back to your 100 per cent,” he added.

“So far it’s been great to see those numbers and at the end of the day just run in and let it go. It’s nice that it comes out at that pace and it’s been consistent so far. Fingers crossed that continues.”