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Cricket news - Dom Sibley - Chasing the England dream

Dom Sibley is averaging 62.66 in the top flight of the Championship this term

Dom Sibley was thirteen or fourteen at the time - he can't recall exactly - and remembers making a hundred for Whitgift School. Understandably, he was excited about his feat but perhaps because of that, he was out shortly afterwards, throwing his wicket away. Still, he was pretty happy with himself. "You had 12 overs left to bat," David Ward, the former Surrey player and master of cricket at Whitgift, told Sibley as he reached the boundary. "You could have got 160. Maybe even 200. Nobody cares about hundreds. You have to get big hundreds for people to notice." Sibley's bubble had very quickly been burst. A standard had been set.

As he tells the story now, Sibley admits it is a lesson he has never forgotten. When you get in, make it count. It is the ethos underpinning his current fine run of form in first-class cricket. The 23 year-old Warwickshire opener is averaging 62.66 in the top flight of the Championship this term, the leading run scorer in the division, closing in on a thousand runs. He will be looking to add to the four hundreds, including a double, that he has made in ten first-class matches this year when his county takes on Somerset at Edgbaston on Sunday (August 18).

His form has been good for a while now. Between the third last Championship match of last season to the second game of this one, with the MCC match against Surrey in Dubai thrown in, Sibley made hundreds in six consecutive first-class matches. He has faced international Test match bowlers while doing it too. This year, Stuart Broad, James Pattinson, Sam Curran, Kyle Abbot and Morne Morkel have had a crack at him. He has scored runs against them all.

And at a time when there is a debate about the willingness and ability of young English batsmen to bat time and occupy the crease, Sibley's run of form has proved that he is one of those who wants to - and can - do just that. "I just love batting," Sibley tells Cricbuzz. "I just want to be out there. I'm not a great watcher of cricket. I don't like watching people. I'm not a big fan of that."

Given his returns, Sibley has been talked of as a potential England player but it wasn't so long ago that he was doing more watching than batting. He spent the first two thirds of last season, his first full campaign at Edgbaston after a move from Surrey, in wretched form. He kept his place in the Warwickshire team but only just. There were technical issues he needed to address but more importantly, Sibley needed to reduce the pressure he was feeling. Not outside pressure after his move from his boyhood county. That he could deal with. It was the pressure that he was putting himself under which was clouding his thinking.

"I wanted to prove to myself that it was the right move and that I was good enough to score runs at the top of the order," he says. "I knew I had done that before at Surrey but still. Sometimes, when you put yourself under far too much pressure, it's not a recipe for success. But towards the back end, I felt more settled and comfortable at the club. Luckily it came off and I finished the season really strongly."

Despite his struggles, Sibley ended the season with four Championship hundreds. It was proof of his ability to make it count when he got in even if he didn't get in as often as he would have liked. He was not selected for the winter Lions' series against Pakistan and wasn't disappointed. He knew his form had been patchy for most of the season. Rather than go to Perth to play grade cricket, as he had done the previous two off-seasons, Sibley opted to spend the winter at home, both to settle into a new city as well as work on his technique.

It was a hard slog, with many hours spent in the indoor nets during a Birmingham winter very different from a Western Australian summer. But being able to focus on improving his technique and having the time to groove it without the pressure of matchplay, was, he believes, time well spent. He made a hundred against Somerset in pre-season and immediately felt something had clicked. He moved well, felt his game was in good shape. Then he made a hundred against Surrey in the season curtain raiser in Dubai and he was away.

That those runs came against his former county was extra-special. Sibley had played for Surrey since he was nine. He became the youngest ever double centurion in Championship history against Yorkshire in 2013 when aged just 17 and from that day on, expectations of a bright future at The Oval had been set. But things never really kicked on from there. Sibley was in and out of the team, playing some decent innings but never reaching the heights perhaps he or the club thought he might as quickly as they thought he might.

As opportunities remained limited, Sibley began to consider his future and decided on a move to Edgbaston at the end of the 2017 season. He was in search of more action in the top three and Warwickshire, under Ashley Giles' leadership, were in a position to provide Sibley with just that as they rebuilt an ageing batting line-up. Understandably, Surrey were frustrated. Whatever the ins and outs of the move, it is clear that for a 21 year-old, who had known nothing else but cricket at Surrey, it was certainly not the easy option.

"Leaving Surrey was a massive decision," Sibley says. "I've still got some amazing mates there and it was great to play against them this year because I didn't get a chance last year. I've grown up, moving away from my family. All those things have helped me as a cricketer and as a person. It's something that I don't regret at all. It's been a great move from me."

At Warwickshire, he has been able to pick the brains of Jonathan Trott, who retired last season and is now coaching at Kent, and Ian Bell. As two of the finest England batsmen of recent times, Sibley could want for no better mentors. Standing at slip with the pair last year was a treat, listening to their stories and their lessons. Watching the intensity with which they trained was an eye-opener too. "Trotty gets in his bubble," Sibley says. "When he's having a net, you can't speak to him. He's in the zone, loud calls like he is in the middle."

Sibley may follow in the footsteps of Bell and Trott soon enough. He was selected for the Lions earlier in the summer, making runs against Australia 'A', and will be considered if the likes of Jason Roy and Joe Denly fail to cement their positions during the Ashes. As professional cricketers do, Sibley plays any England talk down. He admits he has thought about it and that it is his ultimate ambition. But he also is level headed enough to not get carried away with his current form.

He knows that he has more work to do. His first-class average is nearing 40 but is not there yet. He has scored a lot of top flight Championship runs this season - and his talent is undoubted - but his consistency and ability to back it up will be tested further as bowlers work his new technique out. His struggles of last season are a good reminder of how quickly things can change too.

But if he keeps scoring runs at the rate he has been scoring them, an England call surely won't be far away. "It's every cricketer's dream to one day get a cap," he says. "I don't know what the future holds but hopefully some day I can live that dream."

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