After scoring a double hundred and a hundred in the same championship match this week, Dominic Sibley is the name on most people’s lips as Ed Smith gets ready to name his tour party for New Zealand. New writer David Wyatt thinks Sibley has what it takes to succeed at test level. Here’s why …
It’s perfectly ok to get excited about a young up and coming English batsmen. By nature, we’re prone to hold back, it’s in our history, our genetics, our DNA. However, with a World Cup trophy tucked snuggly under our arms, perhaps the era of self-confidence in English cricket is well and truly here.
After the euphoria of that magical day at Lords on the 14th of July, we settled down to watch England battle through an Ashes series. However, we’re not here to talk about the World Cup, or the Ashes, we’re hear to talk about the future.
Listening to the Switch Hit podcast recently, I was surprised to hear Butcher and co suggest that England’s strategy of selecting white ball cricketers in the red-ball format was due to the simple and undeniable fact that there weren’t a lot of alternatives banging on the proverbial door. Well, Butch may want to think again as that’s simply not the case.
All year I’ve been watching county cricketers up and down the country underline their names and shove their CV under the nose of selector Ed Smith (not literally but you get my point). And it’s ok to get excited about a young English batsmen without expectations shattering them into one million tiny pieces – lets call it the Hameed effect.
The problem is that championship evidence has been ignored. Exhibit A, Jason Roy opening for England, Dom Sibley opening for Warwickshire. One has never really done it, one has just posted a 215* to take his championship total to over 1200 runs for the season. One can’t resist a poke outside off-stump, one plays each ball on its merit. One’s defence you could drive a bus through, the other you couldn’t slide a sheet of paper through.
Now this is not to say that Dominic Sibley is perfect, or that we shouldn’t appreciate what Jason Roy gave to England’s ODI squad over the course of the summer. However, this is where we need to separate the two formats, something the selectors have failed to do. Opening the batting in red ball cricket is vastly different to opening the batting in ODIs.
Historically, what characteristics would you look for in an opening batsmen? Sound technique? Absolutely. Patience? Almost certainly. Defensive capabilities? You just gotta have it. To be a good opening batsmen in test cricket you have to have a certain make-up. You need to have everything listed above and a whole lot more.
One of the key aspects of opening the batting is taking the shine off the ball. A new ball has a pronounced seam and will move and bounce every which way. You need as an opener to take that shine away, so when your shot makers come in at #3 through #7 they have favourable conditions. If your openers fail to do that it makes it so much harder for the rest.
So this week I sat down to have a look at Dominic Sibley. We know he’s made over 1,200 county runs but does he bat time? Does he gobble up deliveries to take the shine off the ball? The answers are yes and yes.
On average this year, Sibley has spent 195 minutes per innings at the crease. And he’s faced an average of 143 balls per innings too. This means he’s eaten up nearly 24 overs when the ball’s at its most dangerous.
All cricket balls, whether they’re a Dukes or a Kookaburra, are tricky to play in the first 15 to 20 overs. The Kookaburra especially gets easier to play after the first hour or so. Sibley, therefore, should be just what England need both at home and overseas.
I think it’s almost certain that Sibley will head off with England for their tours of New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka, sending a message that county cricket does matter.
Two years ago Sibley made the difficult decision to leave Surrey and join Warwickshire. He made that decision because he was batting 5 down in London and wanted to open.
After joining Warwickshire, Sibley enlisted the help of batting specialist Gary Palmer who helped Sibley change his stance from side on to front on and the rewards are evident this year. He’s the leading run scorer in county cricket, and looks like a ready made test player.
Young Dom has a sound defensive game, he knows where his off stump is, and he’s happy to bat all day – something you can’t say about many England test cricketers these days.
Earlier this year, Sibley received the call for England Lions duty and responded with a 74 and 30 against an Australia XI that included Jackson Bird. Michael Neser, and Mitchell Marsh. His next call could and should be for the real thing.
It’s ok to feel a twang of excitement about the prospect of Dominic Sibley joining the floppy haired Rory Burns and filling that huge void left by Alastair Cook.
When he first joined The Bears, Ashley Giles was Warwickshire’s sporting director so he should know everything there is to know about Sibley. I just hope that Ed Smith finally recognises his talents too.