Mark Waugh: Quite frankly, I don’t know how Dom Sibley got to Test level
Mark Waugh, Shane Warne and Michael Vaughan have lambasted the state of England’s Test batting line-up, with particularly strong criticism of incumbent opener Dom Sibley.
England collapsed to 122 all out in their most recent innings, in the second Test against New Zealand, with the resulting defeat consigning Joe Root’s side to their first home series defeat since 2014. It also continued a run of five games without a win, with England’s batsmen also coming up short in India. After making 578 in their first innings of the series, their next highest score in seven subsequent innings was just 205.
“There’s just no quality there,” said Waugh, speaking on the Road to the Ashes podcast. “I don’t know why there’s no depth in batting in the English line-up. To me James Vince is not a bad player. I know he’s played 13 Tests, but he’s got a touch of class. Someone like Dom Sibley, he can’t score. You can’t come to Australia with Burns and Sibley opening the batting, because they can’t score. He hasn’t got any shots, Dom Sibley. He’s not a Test player, and quite frankly I don’t know how he got to that level. There’s got to be a shortage of players there.”
Sibley originally won his call-up through weight of runs in county cricket. In the 2019 County Championship which preceded his Test debut in New Zealand, Sibley made 1,324 runs at an average of 69.68, with five hundreds and a high score of 244. He has made two Test centuries, against South Africa and West Indies, and while he has struggled for form like many of his teammates this year, his three half-centuries is as many as any other England player. Sibley was also named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in April.
However, Warne agreed that Sibley should lose his Test place, pointing to the lack of pressure he puts back on the bowling side.
“Dom Sibley, I just don’t know how he can play Test cricket,” he said. “As a bowler, you worry about batsmen that can hurt you. No one’s thought of this. The England middle-order are suffering, because all the bowlers who play against England have got their tail up and confidence up because they are not getting hurt by Burns and Sibley. They can’t punish them, they can’t hurt them on any level. All they can do is survive and see off the shine. That’s no good. You have to put pressure on the bowler, and these two can’t do that.”
Vaughan agreed that England’s batting was a concern. “he batting line-up is fragile, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “Buttler and Stokes will come back in, Woakes, yes they’ll improve the team, but unless that batting line-up changes and can learn and understand how to make big scores against good bowling, I just can’t see how they can compete. It’s going to be tough for them to beat India on these shores, but then to go to Australia and get 450, 500, I just can’t see it unless they make one or two changes.
“I’d bring in Dawid Malan. I’d bring Malan back in at No.3. Apparently he’s not popular, but then who gives a hoot if he scores runs? That’s what I like to see in my batters, someone who can score a few runs, who’s got a bit of experience. He played well against you guys in Australia last time. I’d put him into three, I’d put Crawley into open. I know that’s a bit of fortune for Crawley because he hasn’t got so many runs, but he can play. I’d have Burns, Crawley, Malan, Root, Stokes, Ollie Pope can stay in at six, Buttler at seven, Woakes at eight. Will that be a good enough eight to get big, big scores? I think they’ll have a better chance than that seven that I saw against New Zealand. They looked very, very fragile.”
Since making 267 against Pakistan last year, Crawley has averaged 10.25 in Test cricket, with one half-century. His overall average is 29.33. However, Warne agreed that he should be retained, rating him as a “class player”, and also picking out another batsman he felt should be in the mix.
“Zak Crawley, I’ve heard some people saying ‘well he’s out of form’,” he said. “Yeah, he might be a bit out of touch, but he’s a class player. I’m with Vaughany, you’ve got to open with Zak Crawley. He actually has got a good technique, he’s a little bit down on form at the moment, but he’s a class player and someone that England have to stick with, and he should be opening. Who else should come in? There’s so many different names because England have tried them but no one has grabbed that opportunity. Why isn’t Jonny Bairstow playing Test cricket? He’s actually performed extremely well.”