Record-breaking Sibley shows Surrey the light
Surrey 572 for 4 (Sibley 220*, Amla 151, Burns 82, Solanki 51) lead Yorkshire 434 by 138 runs
Dominic Sibley provided a pleasant footnote to Surrey's torturous season by becoming the youngest player to score a double century in the County Championship. It was an extraordinary achievement for an 18-year-old who has to go back to school on Monday.
He batted for nine-and-a-half hours and faced 484 balls for his double hundred - concentration not often associated with the current generation of young players weaned on one-day cricket. Of Englishmen, only WG Grace has achieved the feat at a younger age in first-class cricket.
Supporters at The Oval have been demoralised this season by an unsuccessful side, the makeup of which has not reflected well on such a famous and wealthy county, but here they could rejoice in a fine young player who has been developed by the club's academy.
Sibley is the latest in a string of home-grown players to appear for Surrey. Their challenge is to ensure they are selected regularly and can develop into established first XI players at the club. Addressing the leakage of talent from The Oval should be high on the agenda of the new head coach.
Whoever is appointed will have a very talented young batsman to work with in Sibley, who will surely sign professional terms soon, having only been on a summer contract this season. When he was 15, he made a double-century for his club, Ashtead, and appeared for Surrey 2nd XI, pushed forward by Surrey academy director Gareth Townsend. Last winter he played for England Under-19s in South Africa and scored a century in the second Youth Test.
Sibley should have returned to Whitgift School to begin his final year studying Geography, English and PE but was given time off to play the final three fixtures of the season. How he would have cursed missing an innings on a wicket this flat.
A-levels will be no trouble for Sibley if he can knuckle down for his exams as he did batting in the morning session. During the first hour he patted back six maidens and found the "Yorkshire Wall" of six men catching in front of the bat impossible to impregnate - inspiration or desperation, it was certainly innovative from Andrew Gale.
After 70 minutes Sibley was finally able to play a shot in anger as Ryan Sidebottom took the second new ball and Sibley punched him off the back foot for three through cover. Fifteen minutes later his second aggressive stroke came with a cover drive off Jack Brooks. In total he needed 98 deliveries to take his overnight 81 to three figures, which arrived via a swept four off Adil Rashid.
"It was more relief this morning to get to a hundred," Sibley said. "I didn't get much of a chance to score, they bowled well at me and when I did get there I was quite emotional.
"I try to keep a familiarity with the way I bat; I always take my guard before each delivery. I keep everything the same and that keeps my tempo going.
"I felt good at Somerset and I was disappointed that I didn't get a big score but I'm pleased that I've got a big one before the end of the season. Doing it here at The Oval is great. I had my parents here and my dad came back from Singapore last night."
He loosened up in the afternoon and enjoyed his time with Hashim Amla, having told his mum he wanted to bat with Amla before he returned to South Africa. The pair added the highest third-wicket partnership for Surrey against Yorkshire which helped Surrey make their highest total against Yorkshire in a first-class match.
It was too easy for Amla. It was too easy for Vikram Solanki who made 51 in 54 balls. And it may never be easier for Sibley. However, his epic nearly didn't happen. He was dropped on just 8 on the second day and should have been held on 159 by Jonny Bairstow: a very simple chance from a thin edge. It was a bad lapse in concentration by the reserve wicketkeeper in England's Ashes squad.
Bairstow did not have a great birthday as he also suffered a nervous moment when he slipped near the pavilion boundary having chased a lost cause to fine leg. He fell awkwardly and Jason Gillespie came tearing down from the dressing room with a worried brow but after a few overs of gingerly movement, Bairstow could go back to worrying about his wicketkeeping.
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo