MARK Stoneman has the chance to live out a dream which took hold more than a decade ago on his first visit to Sydney Cricket Ground to watch England in the Ashes.

Back then, he was still a teenager yet to make his professional debut and testing the water in grade cricket – a young hopeful from Tyneside.

England were on their way to a 5-0 whitewash defeat but Stoneman did not let that stop him lapping up the "top-dollar" atmosphere and daring to dream he could one day be a part of it for real out in the middle.

That day is about to dawn for the opener as England try to stave off a 4-0 defeat this time in the fifth and final Test.

In the intervening years, Stoneman returned several times to Sydney for stints with Bankstown and other clubs, met his wife Serene and made many friends there.

More recently he upped sticks from Durham and headed to Surrey to further a career which has brought him his first seven Test caps over the past five months.

Casting his mind back to January 2007, when Andrew Flintoff's tourists were about to lose one more time, Stoneman said: "It was incredible.

"The Barmy Army were in full voice and Brett Lee was steaming. I was thinking how good it would be to be out there."

Stoneman was past 30 by the time he made his Test debut but insists he would not change a thing about his hard-earned progression.

He said: "I dreamed about it. It was certainly a long way off. It's been a long and winding road in between but, looking back, I wouldn't have had it any other way."

Stoneman has had something of a 'nearly' tour this winter, by his own admission – with two 50s and an average just under 30 – but how fitting it would be if he has saved his best for last back at the SCG.

"As much as you try to compartmentalise and take each game as it comes, it was always going to be the icing of the tour on a personal note to come back to Sydney, where I've spent a lot of time," he said.

"I've got a lot of friends and family and it's something I'm very much looking forward to."

Stoneman's youthful trips to Australia have gone a long way to making the man.

He said: "It was massive, on a personal and cricketing front. The two go hand in hand as you mature and learn a bit more about yourself.

"You take your game in various directions and Sydney's been a massive part of that.

"I met my wife out here and she's been a fantastic support as well, especially when things got a bit tough back home with the move down to Surrey.

"She's always been 100 per cent behind me and that's played a big part at times when things aren't going as well as you'd like."

Will there be extra nerves then when he walks out with Alastair Cook to set the tone for England?

No, apparently – he got those out of the way back in Brisbane six weeks ago.

"The first Test at the Gabba was up there in terms of hairs on the back of the neck, going through the anthems," said Stoneman.

"The rest of it's been great fun. I don't think you can have as much fun playing cricket as you do playing for your country in the Ashes."