Sibley’s first six attempts at the highest level had yielded only 105 runs but he knuckled down for nearly six hours and 222 deliveries as he ground down the South African attack for an unbeaten 85 on day three of the second Test, leaving the tourists 264 ahead at Newlands.
It was an obdurate, unflashy and deeply important innings in the context of the match, the series at large and Sibley’s own journey. Another 15 runs when play resumes today and it may go down as the launching point for a long and fruitful spell heading up the England order.
Anderson, who surpassed Sir Ian Botham by taking a national record 28th five-wicket haul in the morning session, certainly hopes so.
At the age of 37 he has seen his fair share of hopefuls fail the audition as an England opener but has high hopes for the Warwickshire man.
“Dom played brilliantly. He’s got the mentality to open the batting, score big runs and stay at the crease for a long time,” said Anderson.
“That’s what we’ve been missing for a couple of years. Hopefully he’s going to cement his place and will get confidence from this knock and go on tomorrow. More importantly, hopefully he can go on in his career in the next few years. I think he’s shown good signs in his career so far – he hasn’t gone on until now but he has made some good starts in his Test career. It’s just about getting that confidence and now he’s gone on he knows he can do it, so hopefully he can push on tomorrow and push on in his career as well.”
Anderson, pictured below, who has too often cut a disconsolate figure after being thrown back into the field after flimsy batting performances in recent years, also toasted Sibley on behalf of the seamer’s union.
“It’s good for us bowlers because it means we can put our feet up,” he added with a smile.
England resume on 218 for four after captain Joe Root (61) and nightwatchman Dom Bess departed late on, meaning Ben Stokes will be Sibley’s first partner on day four.
Their task will be to push the lead up past 350 before handing back to Anderson as England look to square the series at 1-1 with two to play.
After missing five months with a calf injury prior to this trip, the veteran is more than happy to take up the battle.
“I sat down at the end of day two and that feeling is what I’d missed: that proper hard day of Test cricket, that proper graft,” he said having capped off outstanding figures of five for 40.
“That’s why I still want to play cricket, that’s what I get a buzz off… coming off the field after a day like that. It was a pretty hot day as well, so you’re sweaty and you know you’ve put a shift in.”
Proteas coach Mark Boucher has not yet given up hope of turning things around, particularly after an unexpectedly benign showing from the Newlands pitch, but accepts his side are in a corner.
“Our backs are up against it,” he admitted. “After the first two days I wouldn’t have wanted to chase any more than 250 but, having looked at the way the wicket played and the way it flattened out quite a bit… if we can chase anything around 330, 340 then great.
“We’ve got to believe a couple of our batters can get a big hundred.”
l Nathan Lyon took five wickets as Australia moved closer to a series whitewash on the third day of the final Test against New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Replying to 454, the Black Caps were dismissed for 251, off-spinner Lyon claiming five for 68 from 30.4 overs as Australia’s moved to to 243 ahead with a 3-0 series victory firmly in their sights.