Batsman Dom Sibley has expressed relief after overcoming a nervy start to England's Test series against South Africa earlier this year.
Sibley was dismissed for four in the first innings of the series opener in Centurion before striking 29 in the second. He then went on to collect 34, 133 not out, 36, 44 and 44 across the remainder of the series in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.
“I thought, ‘If they bowl like that all series, I'm not sure I'll get a run',” he told the Daily Mail.
“I spoke to my opening partner Rory Burns and he said the same thing. He reckoned it was the best opening spell he'd faced – even better than the Ashes, when he'd faced Pat Cummins.”
Sibley vs Rabada and Nortje
Sibley opened the batting alongside Burns, who was later injured, and replaced by the inexperienced Zak Crawley. The 24-year-old right-hander recalled particularly fiery spells from Proteas fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje.
“At times in that series, there was Nortje at one end and Kagiso at the other, each bowling 90 miles per hour-plus,” he added.
“You don't get exposed to that too often in county cricket. It's about being thick-skinned.
“I'd be lying if I said I didn't have my doubts. But I got 29 in the second innings and took confidence from how I played.”
Help from Anderson and Broad
He relished the advice of England fast bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson. Broad was involved in all four Tests in South Africa, while Anderson was injured in the second – and subsequently sidelined for the rest.
“I told myself that I'd only had three innings, which wasn't a fair reflection. I spoke to James Anderson and Stuart Broad and they said I should keep doing what I'd been doing. For them to say that, urging me not to worry, really helped,” said Sibley.
Sibley was in the Test squad for this month's Test series against Sri Lanka, which was eventually cancelled as a preventative measure against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Sibley had scored 14, zero and 37 in two warm-up matches preceding the two-Test series in Sri Lanka. Prior, he had welcomed two centuries for the England Lions on tour in Australia.