Si­b­ley sheds the weight af­ter feel­ing ‘em­bar­rassed’ over his fit­ness

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Cricket - By Nick Hoult CHIEF CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Dom Si­b­ley has lost just un­der 2st af­ter feel­ing em­bar­rassed about his fit­ness when he com­pared him­self to se­nior England play­ers.

Si­b­ley has pre­pared for his first Test series at home by los­ing weight dur­ing lock­down with equip­ment pro­vided by the England strength and con­di­tion­ing coaches.

“I’ve al­ways been some­one who hasn’t nec­es­sar­ily been the fittest in the squad and I’ve al­ways been coast­ing in that as­pect,” he said.

“I have al­ways prided my­self in train­ing re­ally hard on my bat­ting but maybe that side has not been some­thing I have done to the best of my abil­ity. Be­ing in Sri Lanka for the first time in my ca­reer, I felt a lit­tle self-con­scious about my physique and my weight, just see­ing how fit some of the se­nior guys are.

“I just re­mem­ber sit­ting on the plane think­ing I needed to do some­thing, es­pe­cially dur­ing lock­down when we couldn’t im­prove any­thing cricket-re­lated. It was an op­por­tu­nity for me to im­prove that side of my game and I’m glad to have been able to stick to it.”

Si­b­ley is a big tar­get at the crease and per­haps los­ing weight will make him lighter on his feet, es­pe­cially against quick bowlers tar­get­ing his chest and armpit area, although he says so far he has not no­ticed any ef­fect on his bat­ting.

He was caught down the leg side off a Jofra Archer bouncer in England’s in­tra-squad warm-up match, so even his own side have picked at a po­ten­tial weak­ness tar­geted by South Africa this year, when they sta­tioned a leg gully to cut off one of his favourite scor­ing ar­eas.

“It’s some­where I’ve scored a lot of runs in county cricket with that shot,” he said. “It was in­ter­est­ing in the prac­tice match that they went with that as well, so it was a good

ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s a case of be­ing in con­trol of that area around the nip­ple to hip. Choos­ing when to play and when not to play.”

Si­b­ley will open with Rory Burns, with Zak Craw­ley drop­ping to four while Joe Denly stays at three. It sug­gests Denly is se­nior to Craw­ley and is likely to keep his place when Joe Root re­turns next week, un­less Craw­ley heav­ily outscores him.

Both teams are likely to “take the knee” be­fore the start of the Test to­mor­row, in sup­port of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment. Cap­tains Ben Stokes and Ja­son Holder were due to dis­cuss the is­sue last night. There will be a minute’s si­lence for Sir Ever­ton Weekes, who died last week, and vic­tims of coro­n­avirus.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has con­firmed that crowd noise will not be piped into the Ageas Bowl, although view­ers will hear a crowd hum recorded from past Tests. There will be an MC an­nouncer, af­ter play­ers re­quested it.

England will play three one-day in­ter­na­tion­als against Ire­land from July 30 to Aug 4, mean­ing two England teams will play dif­fer­ent for­mats just 24 hours apart. The ODI series fin­ishes at the Ageas Bowl the night be­fore the first of three Tests against Pak­istan starts at Emirates Old Traf­ford on Aug 5.

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