Dominic Peter Sibley
September 05, 1995, Epsom, Surrey
Right hand Bat
An old-fashioned opener with the appetite to bat all day, Dominic Sibley won a Test call-up for the New Zealand tour at the end of 2019 after a year of heavy scoring.
Patient, determined and technically tight, Sibley was the only man to score 1,000 Division One Championship runs in 2019 - he scored 1,324 - with five centuries, five half-centuries and an average of 69.68 a particularly impressive record in a season when ball dominated bat. Comparisons with Alastair Cook, as a top-order player with a natural penchant for the legside and a willingness to grind out ugly runs if they wouldn't come any other way, seemed natural.
His technique was widely criticised after a nervous start against New Zealand. But he showed his value in South Africa, averaging more than 50 and contributing heavily to England's series win. A vital, maiden century in Cape Town looked to have won him an extended run in the side.
Although he had long been seen as one to keep an eye upon, Sibley endured a grim run of form after moving to Warwickshire towards the end of the 2017 season. At one stage he suffered 10 scores under 20 in 11 consecutive first-class innings including eight single-figures returns.
But some technical adjustments towards the end of 2018 - in part, at least, suggested by the freelance batting coach, Gary Palmer - resulted in a dramatic improvement. At one stage, Sibley made centuries in six successive first-class games (including one for the MCC against the Champion County, Surrey, in Dubai) with nine, in all, coming between September 10, 2018 to September 19, 2019. England selectors who had long appeared to want a more aggressive opening batsmen were convinced at last.
Sibley first came to attention when he became the youngest player to make a double century in the County Championship. In 2013, playing just his third first-class match, he grandly repelled Yorkshire's attack at The Oval.
Sibley developed through the Surrey youth system while at Whitgift School on a sports scholarship. At just 15 he made his Surrey 2nd XI debut, scoring 37 against Sussex at Horsham. That summer he made a double century for his club side, Ashtead. For the next two seasons he developed under the tutelage of Surrey academy director Gareth Townsend. He was selected for England Under-19s tour of South Africa in the winter of 2012-13 and made a century in the second Youth Test.
Sibley's Surrey bow came in a Yorkshire Bank 40 against Essex at The Oval at the start of August. It was memorable for the wrong reason as was stretchered off with a badly gashed knee having dived to make his ground and got his pad stuck in the ground. The injury ruled him out of England Under-19s tri-series but he returned to the Surrey first team at the end of the month, making a duck against Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
Instead of returning for his final year at Whitgift, he played the final three matches of the 2013 season. After failures against Somerset at Taunton and then back at Edgbaston, he etched his name into the record books with 242 against Yorkshire at The Oval. It was the highest maiden century for Surrey and the second-youngest double century by an Englishman in first-class cricket, only WG Grace being younger.
Amid the gloom of Surrey's relegation, Sibley was a rare source of pride. Much, possibly too much, was expected of him in the next two seasons, when he was still a teenager. He managed only a dozen games in two years and was not a central part of a fast-improving Surrey squad, but few at the club doubted that he would return and prove that his innings against Yorkshire was no one-off.
There were signs of consolidation in 2016, a season in which he came painfully close to an elusive second Championship hundred. Against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, he reached 99 before he was bowled by Gareth Berg. Perhaps surprisingly, he revealed signs of a more expansive game when he topped Surrey's Twenty20 averages.
Perhaps unsettled by Surrey's decision to sign Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick as top-order competition at the end of 2016, he surprised the club by turning down a new three-year contract during the 2017 season and instead signed a three-year deal with Warwickshire. With some frustration on both sides, he was allowed to leave in August on a loan deal which saw Rikki Clarke move in the opposite direction and quickly established himself at the top of the order in the red and white ball teams. Three Championship hundreds in as many matches gave him a golden September as Warwickshire returned to Division One at the first time of asking the following year.
Batting & Fielding