With Joe Root away for the birth of his daughter Ben Stokes took the reins in Southampton in the first test if the summer and in fact the first test worldwide since New Zealand beat India in early March. Stokes took the decision to bat first and we saw England bowled out for just 204. The main stat I’m looking at here is the score for 4 wickets in the first innings, that was 71 for 4 at the Ageas Bowl. Much was written about the fact that Stuart Broad didn’t feature in this game, cue much moaning when the West Indies deservedly won this test match. As is so often the way the bowlers get the stick when the batsmen underperform. Stokes top scored himself in the first innings with 43 and Zak Crawley with 76 in the second.

Dom Sibley in action for Warwickshire

The teams moved on to Old Trafford for the second test, with more drama coming from the bowling ‘stable’ – Jofra Archer chose to travel to Manchester via his home in Brighton – he must need a new SatNav! That meant he had to miss the match, alongside Jimmy Anderson and Mark Wood who were rotated. That saw Broad, of course, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran back in the bowling line up.

Jason Holder won the toss at Old Trafford and put England to bat; England fell to 81 for 3 when Rory Burns was out for 15, Zac Crawley for 1 and Joe Root for 23, not the best of starts! Then we get to the point of this article! The fourth wicket partnership between Dom Sibley and Ben Stokes.

The pair put on 260 runs for that fourth wicket, taking the score to 341 for 4! I started watching test cricket live in earnest in 2014; looking just at home tests, in the 6 years up to date there has only been a higher 4th wicket score twice. That being in the 3rd Test at Southampton in 2014 against India, thanks to a partnership of 142 between Gary Ballance who was out on 156 and Ian Bell who made 167. Then again in 2017 against the West Indies, a 248 partnership between Alastair Cook and Joe Root for the 3rd wicket, then a 4th wicket partnership of 162 between Cook and Dawid Malan. Cook made 243, Root 136 and Malan 65.

Sir Alastair Cook finished his test career with 12472 runs at an average of 45.4

England have found themselves 4 wickets down with 200 or under 31 times in those years, with 41 tests played at home. With 10 of those scores being under 100! I’ve been a stats geek and included a table of the openers for each year, with runs scored and those 4th wicket scores. Looking at the openers who partnered Cook, it does beg the question, why Sam Robson was discarded after 2014?

With those facts in mind I really can’t understand why Dom Sibley is coming in for the criticism he has over the last few days, he scored 120, batting for just over 9 hours while facing 372 balls – that, is test batting, a strike rate of 32.26, but he made 120 runs! Ben Stokes batted for just over 8 hours facing 356 balls while scoring 176 runs, a higher strike rate, but still just 49.44. Proving what we already knew that he can play a ‘proper’ test innings. As an aside he really has become an outstanding cricketer!

At the end of Day 4, this match could go either way, England have a lead of 219 with 8 wickets remaining and a day to add a few more runs and take 10 wickets. Just wait for more criticism of Sibley if England fail to take those wickets tomorrow. As the title says, Damned if he did and damned if he didn’t! Oh, and this is his second century by the way in just 7 matches.

2014 – Sri Lanka, India – 7 Tests 120/4, 311/4Cook24034.2
172/4, 113/4, 378/4, 136/4, 204/4Robson (31)27339
2015 – New Zealand, Australia – 7 Tests 30/4, Cook30643.7
239/4, 196/4, 30/4, 142/4, 269/4, 64/4Lyth (32)16323.3
2016 – Sri Lanka, Pakistan – 7 Tests 70/4, 219/4, Cook 38254.6
84/4, 147/4, 311/4, 144/4, 74/4Hales (31)22632.3
2017 – South Africa, West Indies – 7 Tests 76/4, Cook 40457.7
143/4, 120/4, 144/4, 449/4, 71/4, 24/4Jennings (4) (28)256.3
2017Stoneman (3) (33)289.3
2018 – Pakistan, India – 7 Tests 100/4, 200/4, Cook26738.1
216/4, 89/4, 86/4, 36/4, 134/4Stoneman (1)44
2018Jennings (6) 12520.8
2019 – Ireland, Australia – 6 Tests 42/4, 194/4, Burns (29)32954.8
116/4, 34/4, 175/4, 170/4Roy (4) (29)246
2019Denly (2) (34)189

1 Comment »

  1. Proper test cricket. England have been unlucky in this test losingbthe third day to rain but still find themselves in a position where they could win the game. And much of that is down to the fact that Sibley and Stokes put the team there with their stand.
    Could they have made those runs quicker? Ideally, yes, but as Root proved in his innings, to accelerate the run rate has its own pitfalls with the likelyhood being out for 20 odd chasing a wide delivery.
    The truth is all teams are mostvsuccessful when you have an opening batsman is an accumulator (unless you are lucky enough to have Greenidge and Haynes or Langer and Hayden up top). Boycott, Gooch and Cook were all batsmen prepared to play long innings which gave others licence to attack. Its going to take a long time to get 450 runs, so what if a third of those runs are scored by one player in 75 overs?
    Sibley looks like the batsman England have wanted since Cook retired; the anchor by which the likes of Crawley, Root and Pope can be freed to.play more expansively.


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