Opener pulls out to work on technique after losing Test place
Sibley finished the season as a double trophy winner, following Warwickshire’s triumphs in the County Championship and the Bob Willis Trophy, but was a notable omission for the Ashes squad, which is due to depart for Australia on November 4, ahead of the opening Test at Brisbane on December 8.
England preferred instead to retain Haseeb Hameed as Rory Burns’ nominal partner, following his recall during the India series, with Zak Crawley also returning as a top-order candidate despite a solitary half-century in 14 innings since his 267 against Pakistan last year.
With Rob Yates, Sibley’s Warwickshire opening partner, also included in the Lions party, Sibley has chosen to sit this winter out and instead concentrate on his technique, after a notable struggle for fluency during the English Test season.
He made 356 runs at 19.77 in ten Tests in 2021, and despite a trio of gutsy half-centuries, including one apiece in Sri Lanka and India, and a match-saving 60 not out against New Zealand in the first Test at Lord’s, his struggles to rotate the strike became a mounting concern for the management as he was dropped after England’s defeat against India, also at Lord’s.
In a statement, the ECB said that Sibley’s withdrawal had come “after much thought and consideration”. “Sibley has decided to spend the winter working on his batting at home in a bid to regain England selection,” the statement added.
Brook’s elevation caps an impressive year for one of England’s most promising young batters. He was named as the winner of two prestigious Young Player awards, from the PCA and the Cricket Writers’ Club respectively, after starring across formats for Yorkshire, as well as for Northern Superchargers in the inaugural season of the Hundred.
Brook, 22, made more runs across the T20 Blast and the Hundred than any other English player, averaging 61.36 and striking at 150.33 from the middle order; he came into the season with a first-class average a shade under 25 but finished it as Yorkshire’s second-highest run-scorer in the County Championship.
“I wrote a few things down at the start of the season – a few aims for the year, what runs I wanted to get in different formats,” Brook told ESPNcricinfo last month. “I got all them targets so I was very happy with it. I do it every season really, but I think this is the first year I’ve actually hit them goals. It’s just trying to know what a good season is before actually starting it. I think it’s nice to set goals and if you smash them, it’s a really good feeling.”
The Lions party will depart for Australia alongside the Test specialists on November 4, and the two parties will be in camp together in the lead-up to the Ashes.
A chance for the Lions players to impress will come in two intra-squad matches (1 x 3-day and 1 x 4-day matches) in Queensland. They will also take on Australia A in a four-day match, although the dates and venues are still to be confirmed. The party will return home on December 16.