As goodbyes go, it was one of the best. Warwickshire completed The Great Escape. What a day. What a finish. What magnificent sporting drama.
And while Liam Connor Norwell justifiably hogged the headlines for his brilliant fast bowling, none of it would have been possible without the runs of Dominic Peter Sibley.
On a pitch which offered the bowlers some help and in mostly grey, damp weather, tricky for batting, Sibley’s brace of classy half-centuries – 54 and 77 – created the canvas on which Norwell painted his heroics. In his final match before rejoining Surrey, the 26-year-old England batter was absolutely pivotal to the Bears’ delivery of a last-day classic for the second successive year.
The final act of the 2022 season was as incredible as that, 12 months earlier, when the Bears bowled out Somerset to clinch the title. The backdrop – avoiding relegation rather than finishing top – was very different but the brilliance of the spectacle, as the final wicket fell with the Bears on the very brink of relegation, and the emotions triggered were similar.
That’s what cricket can do! And among all the joy and celebrations, ‘Sibs’ was able to reflect on a job very well done – not just in that match, but at Edgbaston. In his six years with Warwickshire he scored 3,875 first-class runs for the club at 44.03, with 12 centuries, to give the team countless strong foundations and power himself into England’s Test team.
Dom Sibley and Warwickshire have been very good for each other. The high affection in which he is held was clear from the ovation he received after his last innings last week. That affection is entirely reciprocated.
“I’m so grateful to everyone for their support, all the members and Warwickshire’s fans,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of love for everyone at the club. It’s been very special to be one of the guys in that dressing room. I wish all the boys all the best. I’ll always be pleased to see the lads and stay in touch with them. I’m excited to see how each of them progresses in their careers.
“My time with the Bears has been an absolute ball for the most part. We won Div Two in my first year and then a County Championship and in between that I played 22 Tests for England. I’ve had an amazing time, made some amazing friends and had some great times on and off the pitch. And to finish the way we did was very special.”
So special. It was a September afternoon which, like the title-clincher a year earlier, sent excitement and joy rippling through the great Bears family across the globe, from Birmingham to Brisbane and from Bordeaux to Bloemfontein.
And it would not have happened without Sibley. Without his half-centuries, and Rob Yates’ classy first innings ton, ‘Pasty’ would have had nothing to bowl at.
“It was a tough wicket to bat on and Rob and myself did well to get through the new ball on that first day,” said Sibley. “The ball was doing too much at times so we were missing them by a good amount which was good because there were no nicks. Yatesy batted brilliantly – for him to finish the season so well was great.
“Then for me to contribute in the second innings was pleasing though, to be honest, when we walked off, I thought we were still a bit short. But then Liam did what he did. It was one of the best spells I’ve ever seen live, if not the best. To be standing at mid on during that spell was memorable. He was undercooked in his body and Will Rhodes and I were just trying to push him on and, as he got tired and had to dig deeper and deeper, he just started bowling wonder balls even more often!
“It was an unbelievable effort from Liam but all 11 of us out there felt we could do it. To defend a low total like that you have to have everyone buying in and bringing energy and we had that. I’m so pleased it ended on a good note. Apart from anything else, it means I can go into battle against the Bears next year. I’m hoping we have some thrilling contests.
“It’s just been a fantastic time for me at Warwickshire and I will always love coming back. When I first met with Ashley Giles to talk about moving to Warwickshire the first thing I said was I wanted to play for England, so to have achieved that has been great and the Bears were a huge part of that. But now is the right time for me to go back, to be closer to my family. It’s no reflection at all on Warwickshire, it’s just the right time to go back home.”
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