Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley got England off to a sensational start in the fourth Test with South Africa, putting on an opening stand of 107 on day one at The Wanderers on Friday.
After a lengthy rain delay, Faf du Plessis lost yet another toss, and the opening pair justified Joe Root’s decision to bat first by putting on England’s first century opening stand since October 2016, when Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings racked up 103 against India in Chennai.
The tea break came immediately after the pair reached the century landmark from the final ball of the 30th over, with the session highlighted by Crawley reaching his maiden Test half-century. He has improved upon his previous Test-best with every innings he has played; in chronological order his Test scores are 1, 4, 25, 44 and 66.
The partnership represented a continuation of the form Crawley and Sibley showed together in the third Test at Port Elizabeth, where their partnership lasted for 31 overs, the longest in terms of balls faced by an England opening pair in the first innings of a match since Cook and Andrew Strauss’ 47.5 over-stand against Australia at Lord’s in 2009.
Crawley and Sibley bettered their efforts from last week, lasting 32.4 overs before Sibley flicked a ball down the leg side to Quinton de Kock, with Beuran Hendricks celebrating his maiden Test wicket. Crawley edged to the slip cordon off Vernon Philander – playing his final Test – just 2.3 overs later.
England’s strong opening stands have been a hallmark of their tour of South Africa. Crawley’s entry into the side for the second Test came about due to Rory Burns’ ankle injury and while the left-hander is currently taking on punditry duties back in England – he is in Sky’s studios today – his 92-run stand with Sibley at Centurion was, at the time, England’s highest since the Cook-Jennings stand in Chennai.
Sibley and Crawley are currently averaging a healthy 53.25 as a Test opening partnership; all of a sudden, England seem to have an array of answers for their long-standing top-order problem.