Sibley is patient, selfish and stubborn – and this is just what England need
It has been a contrasting summer for England’s openers. Dom Sibley is the answer to all the criticism England have received in recent years for being too gung-ho. They have lost Test matches by batting poorly in one session. We cannot criticise them for being too aggressive and then complain when someone like Sibley comes along.
There will be many club cricketers out there asking how have we ended up with an England opener who cannot play the cover drive? The fact is Sibley does not want to play it because he sees it as a risk. He is waiting for the ball on middle stump so he can work it to the on side.
Sibley leaves outside off stump well, he does not go chasing the ball. He will not suddenly unleash a Robin Smith-style square cut or Ricky Ponting-style pull shot, but what we have is someone willing to bat for a long period of time and try to wear opponents down. I like the Sibley way in Test cricket. I like the fact he has worked out his game, left Surrey for Warwickshire to find his way and been a consistently high run-scorer in county cricket.
Would I rush into the ground at 11am to watch him? No. But would I pay money to watch him bat? Yes. I like watching players who want to bat for a long period of time, because they play for the team. They risk all that hard work coming to nothing because they could still make a low score despite the time invested.
He is obviously a bit selfish, which you need as an opener, and stubborn about the way he plays. That is fine.
Alastair Cook came into the England team with two or three shots and people thought he had limitations. But in Test cricket two or three scoring options take you a long way. Where players get into trouble is when they have too many shots. Sibley’s hands go out away from his body, which looks unorthodox but works for him. He seems to know where his off stump is. The alignment of his feet is neutral, which certainly helps.
Look at Rory Burns. His feet cross over and his right foot goes too far over to the off side. His head follows his foot, so he has become vulnerable to straight balls. Sibley does not look vulnerable to the straight ball. He is in a nice, balanced position. If it seams around then, of course he could be in trouble, but he is not the only one in that position.
Down the leg side is something he is going to have to work on. I think he is a bit casual with the leg-side ball, he just flicks his bat at it. He just needs to commit more to the shot and get more bat on it. Against spin, he needs another scoring area. That will be his challenge in the subcontinent, because he cannot get completely bogged down by the spinner.
Getting caught down the leg side is an easy one to put to bed. You just have to mentally realise that now and then you might just have to let it hit you.
This is quite a big week for Burns. He is the senior pro. I love his character. He is not under threat in my opinion, but he does not want to end the season with a couple of low scores. England go to the subcontinent in the winter. What will the make-up of the side be? How are they going to set up? Zak Crawley could easily open because he is a good player of spin.
This is a top three England should invest time in. It is just that Burns’s technique is so unorthodox and has so many moving parts that he will have a lot of low scores. That could drain him. When he gets to 20 or 30 like he did against West Indies on a couple of occasions he has to make it count.
His second-innings 90 at Old Trafford against West Indies does not count – the game was won by then. You make your name as an opener when the pressure is on, and he has not made the scores he would expect.
It is not easy, but against the moving ball in England your technique looks after you. So far this season his technique has not looked after him well enough.
I like watching players who want to bat for a long period, because they play for the team
Stubborn: Dom Sibley’s ability to stick around is important as an opening batsman