New ball or old, Jonathan Trott has 'full faith' in Dom Sibley's abilities against spin



Trott, Sibley’s former Warwickshire team-mate, is England’s batting consultant in India

It has been a strange winter for Dom Sibley. While England’s white-ball players were in South Africa in December, Sibley was readying himself for the challenge of his first six Tests in Asia in surreal surroundings, batting in a marquee at the national performance centre in Loughborough. With snow on the ground outside, it made for an incongruous setting for preparation despite the use of dry, spinning pitches to hone techniques against the turning ball.

England’s first Test against Sri Lanka in January was his first first-class match on the subcontinent, and it showed: he was out three times in as many innings to the left-arm spin of Lasith Embuldeniya, making all of six runs in the process. He looked uncertain throughout his brief stays, with his footwork hesitant due to his apparent failure to pick the length early. With Rory Burns due to return from paternity leave in India, there were legitimate doubts surrounding his place in the side.

Those doubts were soon dispelled. He found a release shot, working the ball into the leg side as Dinesh Chandimal posted some generous fields in the final innings of the Sri Lanka series, and started the India leg of the tour by grinding out 87 off 286 balls as he batted through the first day of the first Chennai Test. Most reassuringly, he managed to negotiate the threat of India’s two frontline spinners, Shahbaz Nadeem and R Ashwin, surviving 79 and 78 balls against them respectively. Picking length no longer seemed to be such an issue for him, as he committed to getting fully forward or back.

But since then, his struggles have resurfaced. Sibley has made only 42 runs across his last five innings, falling twice each to Ashwin and Axar Patel and once to Ishant Sharma, and while there are no serious questions being asked around his place, he goes into the fourth and final Test on Thursday under pressure once more.

Reassuringly for Sibley, help is close at hand. Jonathan Trott, his former Warwickshire team-mate, was the instigator of his run-scoring glut at the end of the 2018 season after encouraging him to open up his stance, and working as a batting consultant with the England squad in India. Trott himself struggled in his first few Tests in India, making just 17 runs across the first two Tests of England’s 2012-13 tour, but found a method to succeed in the final two, compiling 87 in Kolkata and a rearguard 143 in Nagpur.

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