83rd over: England 207-3 (Sibley 86, Stokes 59) Gabriel has the ball, and we’re told it’s slightly warmer today than yesterday and also not as breezy; “Should be batting day,” says Bumble. Sibley plays out a maiden – of course he does – while Mikey says everything to him needs to begin outside off stump, whether it’s moving in or out, and the penultimate delivery does just that, beating him moving away off the seam.
“From last winter,” tweets Bob O’Hara: “‘Zak Crawley is an opener, and so is Dom Sib-ley’. Ugh. I think we now know why he was demoted to 3.”
I agree, my version is far, far superior.
“You know you’ve been watching too much cricket when…” begins Alok Prasanna Kumar. “You’ve memorised all the words in all the ad jingles that play between the overs.”
Or, in other words, you know you’ve been watching too much cricket when….
Feel free to send in your personal completions of that sentence.
Also on Sibley, and returning to yesterday’s patter about an OBO playlist, is anyone else singing his name to this? Dom Sibley is an opener, and so is Rory Burns.
“Permission to declare my adoration for Dom Sibley?” rhetorical questions Guy Hornsby, who well knows that adoration is what the OBO is all about. “I know for a long time we wanted six Warner or Kohlis to be a dominant Test side, but surely our ongoing fragility demands a Sibley at the top. It went ok for Cook. Wearing bowlers down is key to making hay at 4/5/6.”
I agree – I don’t think there’s a formula that results in a good team beyond having good players, and that is absolutely one way of doing it. If Sibley is good, he’s good.
“Regarding Archer,” says Tom Marlow, “if someone informed on him would it be a case of bubble and squeak? Sorry, I need to get out more. Looking forward to another great day’s play. Be nice to see England put back-to-back sessions on top, even three if that’s not over-optimistic, and put some pressure on the opposition for the bowlers to exploit. But these teams seem evenly matched. Should be fascinating.”
They are, but this track has, unwittingly, taken away a lot of what West Indies do well, and by inserting England, they’ve added SB Pressure to their bowling attack. That might be the difference here.
Sibley tells Athers he doesn’t sleep well when he’s not out overnight and didn’t last night. He says the pitch is soft and two-paced but he hopes to get through the new ball and “build an innings”; er, you’ve sort of done that already mate. He says he’s always been able to bat long period of time, and talks himself through good periods for the bowlers, then goes on to explain, when prompted, that he’s been thinking about not glancing to leg slip – yesterday he allowed a ball to hit him – and that so few bouncers were bowled at him because the pitch offered so little help.
Email! “Not wanting to be a pedant,” begins David Harland, “but then again this is the OBO so I will be anyway … surely Jason Holder is is West Indies’ best bowler over the angel Gabriel? His figures from recent tests are incredible (or at least that’s what Andy Saltzman said yesterday!!)“
His recent figures are great, it’s true, and he is also great. But the England batsmen say Gabriel is the hardest to face, apparently, and that looks the case to me watching on telly too. I might be wrong, though.
There was a lot of talk yesterday about Dominic Sibley’s batting style, but ultimately, where would England be without him? Batsmen want to put pressure back on the bowlers, but that needn’t mean whacking them off their length; the knowledge that anything wide is getting left and anything straight is getting nurdled brings its own issues. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott showed that you can be an outstanding Test player with very few principal shots; if Sibley can develop a cut, that might just be enough for him.
I hope we see the best of Shannon Gabriel today, who struggled for rhythm yesterday and perhaps felt the effects of bowling nearly 37 overs in the first Test. West Indies know that England aren’t going to give it away – yes, I really typed those words, but what I probably meant is that West Indies know Sibley and Stokes aren’t going to give it away – so will be relying on their best bowler to show up.
On the pitch, there’s a chance that we’ll see it quicken up over the next few days. There’s still a bit of rain forecast, but if it’s sunny or sunnyish the rest of the time, we might see it dry out, which would probably please everyone – batsmen, quicks, spinners, viewers.
If life teaches us anything, it’s that we’re better and worse than everyone else. So there was a certain indulgent, masochistic pleasure in yesterday’s fare, one for the purists and the impure that was both uninteresting and disinteresting for more normal, abnormal people.
And, by the end of it, England had lurched into a strong position. If they can avoid collapse – ! – in the early part of the day, they’ll be in control of the match, which is to say that the first hour will be crucial, then the hour after that, the hour after that and the hour after that.
West Indies, meanwhile, will know that even without playing well, they missed chances to take command, so can reasonably rationalise that even a par performance will stick them right up in England’s grille.
Ultimately, the unavoidably sluggish nature of the pitch means we might be feeling inferior and superior this time tomorrow too – but there’s more than enough talent and stakes out in the middle to take all that out of the equation.
Play: 11am BST