Dom Sibley reflects on “special” century

Dom Sibley has cited “keeping it simple” as one of the key factors behind his maiden Test century for England – and some wise words from a great Bear as another.

Warwickshire opener Sibley’s unbeaten 133 against South Africa in the second Test at Newlands lifted him onto the proud list of Bears to have scored a ton at the very top level.

"It is very special to have that first Test century under my belt but now I know I have got to back it up."

Dom Sibley

His maiden Test century arrived in his seventh innings and took his average in the format to 39.66 – the brink of 40.00 which has always been seen as the benchmark for a top batsman.

Few would back against Sibley’s average remaining above 40 once it gets there, as did that of a man whose counsel Sibley has sought this winter – Bears legend Jonathan Trott who averaged 44.09 in a 52-Test career.

“I spoke to Trotty when we were in New Zealand before Christmas and again here in South Africa,” said Sibley, shortly before travelling to Port Elizabeth for the third Test which starts next Thursday. “It is brilliant to talk to someone of his knowledge and experience.

“He told me that scoring runs in Test cricket becomes addictive. The more you do it, the more you just want to get out there the next time and do it again.

“I certainly can’t wait to get to Port Elizabeth. It is very special to have that first Test century under my belt but now I know I have got to back it up. I felt that I got in in the second innings at Centurion and in the first at Newlands so thought it was coming.

“It was a great feeling and then for us to win the match on the last day was fantastic. The atmosphere was just incredible, like a home T20.”

Sibley’s match-shaping innings attracted considerable praise – but the 24-year-old will be letting that pass outside off-stump just as he does the criticism among the ocean of opinion which accompanies any player’s arrival at Test level.

As level-headed as they come, Sibley continues to approach his batting with the same focus and discipline whether facing South Africa in a Test in Cape Town or Derbyshire in a Second XI Championship match at Hem Heath (which he did only 20 months ago – and scored 278 not out).

“The challenge is to keep it as simple as possible,” he said. “In Test cricket you are facing the best bowlers from a nation, which is tough in itself, and then there is everyone watching and the scrutiny, but I just try to do, as much as possible, what has worked for me before.

“It has really helped that the England guys have made me so welcome in the team. That has made it easy to relax and settle.”

That team now heads to Port Elizabeth where the previous highest score by a Warwickshire player in a Test for England is a mere 26 – by MJK Smith (1965) and Ashley Giles (2004).

England will be hoping for more of the same after Newlands – from Sibley and from Ben Stokes who pipped him for the man-of-the-match award.

“Stokesy tried to take me out there with him for the presentation but he deserved it,” Sibley said. “It was brilliant to watch him batting from the other end and with the catches and then the wickets right at the end he is unbelievable cricketer.”

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