Matt Maher: Sibley struggle symptomatic of England’s woes

England’s decision to drop Dom Sibley for next week’s third Test against India came as no huge surprise.

England's Dom Sibley walks off after being caught out.
England's Dom Sibley walks off after being caught out.

For some time the Warwickshire batsman has looked a player going backwards. Only a year ago, the opener averaged more than 44 in international cricket after scoring his second of two Test centuries in the home series against West Indies.

But 2021 has largely been a struggle. In his last 15 Test innings he has recorded three ducks, five single figure scores and only one half-century.

Sibley has never been the kind of batsman to empty the bars whenever he is in the middle though, as India’s Chetashwar Pujara proved in the second Test at Lord’s, there will always be occasions when blocking it out pays dividends.

And yet the shots Sibley did have in his armoury, those which combined with a strong mentality saw him plunder a colossal amount of runs in 2019 to earn his England call, have been seen only fleetingly of late. He had become too defensive and appeared increasingly devoid of confidence.

In short, he had become stuck in a rut. Assisting Warwickshire’s efforts to claim their first County Championship title in nine years provides Sibley the chance to rebuild some belief. Still aged just 25, it feels far too early to be writing him off and England cannot afford to do so, such is their paucity of options. The ECB’s decision to sideline the domestic red ball game is beginning to reap serious repercussions.

Haseeb Hameed is expected to move up the order to open alongside Rory Burns but the Nottinghamshire batsman did not enjoy a great time at Lord’s himself.

So much of England’s success in recent years has been down to the quantity and quality of their all-rounders but with both Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes missing, the faults in the batting line-up have been ruthlessly exposed.

At least Moeen Ali is finally back in the fold but having played only limited red ball cricket in the past two years, it may take a while for him to rediscover top form. England’s overall prospects for the rest of the series against perhaps the best Indian Test team ever are not promising.

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