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England v West Indies

Why Dom Sibley’s strike-rate criticism is harsh

by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

On the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, the criticism directed towards Dom Sibley for his strike-rate in the first innings of the second Test against West Indies was discussed.

The England opener scored the second hundred of his Test career in the first of two Emirates Old Trafford Tests, but that he took 372 deliveries for his 120-run knock attracted criticism.

Michael Holding, speaking on Sky Sports, said that he would have preferred Sibley to accelerate after getting to three figures before claiming that his knock might turn out to be a ‘great innings’ for the West Indies.

Yas Rana, the podcast host, asked whether Sibley’s strike-rate criticism was warranted as Phil Walker, the Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief and Jo Harman, the magazine editor, presented their views.

Yas Rana: Sibley scored England’s slowest Test hundred in 20 years and England’s second-slowest home hundred ever as England scored 400 in the first innings of a home Test for the first time in three years. There was some criticism of his strike-rate and particularly his rotation of strike against spin bowling. Do you think that was warranted at all or should England appreciate that they’ve got an opener who can bat all day?

Jo Harman: No, I thought the criticism was harsh. At times, on the Sky coverage I was watching, [it was] way too harsh. I think Michael Holding came quite close to calling him selfish at one stage – I think it was almost at the latter part of his innings. I think it was ridiculous. Sibley was picked to do a job which he has done perfectly, you can’t expect him to then start playing in a way that he is, basically, not really capable and that’s not what he has been picked for.

Obviously you would have liked him to kick on more after he got to his hundred but that’s not for want of trying, it was a difficult pitch to score on throughout. Ben Stokes wanted to accelerate earlier than he did but was struggling to time it. And I think we need to be careful – I think Sibley is a very strong character, he is an impressive bloke to speak to, he seems very unflappable and also very personable, doesn’t seem like things affect him too much – but this stuff does get in players’ heads.

It happened with Nick Compton, this was partly due to [Trevor] Bayliss saying he wasn’t scoring quickly enough and then the media got onto it as well. And then Compton started playing in a way that didn’t suit him at all and he wasn’t getting scores anymore. It’ll be a real shame if that happens to Sibley because he is doing exactly what England wanted of an opener since Cook retired, and even before Cook, the partner we wanted for Cook.

So now he should just keep on doing what he is doing and he’ll have days where he scores more fluently and he will have days where he gets a bit stuck and that’s fine, that is true for every batsman. It is more exaggerated for Sibley because he is limited in his stroke play. But he is doing a good job, just keep on doing it.

YR: I think because of his style as well, you almost wouldn’t notice as easily if he is not timing it well because it is just quite ugly all the time. So I actually thought on day one, even for him, he wasn’t playing that fluently. Do you know he plays a quite straight shot off his hips? It’s not really a flick, it’s a straight shot off his hips, and he nailed one it went four and I was like, ‘That’s the first one he has timed all day.’ I think he was struggling as well.

Phil Walker: I thought he was actually more fluent in South Africa, from what I saw. You really fancied him through mid-wicket, through straight mid-on and through square leg. He has this issue on the hip, where they have identified that there’s a bit of a weakness area and he gets caught around the corner, but you still fancied him. Anything that was short, anything that was fullish on the pads, anything that was even on off-stump, you fancy him to punch it down the ground.

He didn’t see much of that this week but he still turned around a hundred and laid the bedrock for a four-day win as well. So, you understand Mikey [Michael Holding] up to a point, he’s had a good few weeks, but he was wrong there, and Joey [Jo Harman] was right. If you win a Test match in four days, then you can’t be accused of being batting too slowly.

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