Thursday, 29 September, Sur v Yor, all day
It's crumbs-of-comfort time for relegated Surrey. That they could reply with a century opening stand to Yorkshire's 434 all out is a Battenberg windfall in a season of the slimmest pickings. That the partners were 23-year-old Burns and the schoolboy Dominic Sibley only adds to the sugar rush. The kids are all right has been many members' theme tune in 2013; this performance went some way to suggesting it may be a hit next year. That, however, was yesterday's story. Today, if the PA were used during championship games, Teenage Kicks would have been constantly on repeat. Sibley was 81 not out when Surrey resumed at 172-1. When stumps were drawn, he was 220 not out, the youngest English double-centurion since Grace and, at 18 years 21 days, the youngest in the championship ever. This was like scoffing the biggest birthday cake imaginable, with the world’s best batsman (Amla scored a sublime 151 alongside him) as special guest at your party. Sibley had to go back to school on the Monday.
It was 190-2 when the nightwatching Linley fell lbw to Rashid, a rare fillip for the labouring leggie. Sibley was extremely patient at the start – there were six maidens, apparently – but he never looked anxious. He swept Rashid to deep square. Sidebottom must have let lumbago get the better of him as he bent to field: a bonus boundary and Sibley – a ringer for a right-handed Cook – was away. Amla began with the deft artistry that was to characterise his innings. A wristy dink to leg off Patterson, who had Bairstow standing up, that went fine as fine can be, and must have been completely deliberate. To pass the time before the new ball, Gale set three fielders on the drive on either side of the cut strip. Sibley wasn’t fazed. After all, his experience of under-10s cricket was fresher than anyone else out there. Subsequently, The Cricketer magazine would make this ploy No 1 in its list of funky fields, calling it the inverted umbrella. From the Pavilion End, it resembled a lady’s fan (that’s fan, three letters). Just for fun, Amla played a square drive that beat them all, as ribbony in its flourish as rhythmic gymnastics.
Sidebottom took the new ball. Sibley got up on his toes to play an authoritative back-foot drive for three and went into the 90s. A full-toss and long-hop combination from Rashid (a regular serving) were tucked round the corner and smashed square, respectively, by bring up the century. Runs flowed in a sparking torrent. One dexterously sliced cover drive from Amla sticks in the mind. A six over mid-on off Rashid announced the 150 partnership. Sibley heaved Williamson in the same direction to go to 148; a leading edge off that bowler, round the wicket, scudded through the off-side for three and another milestone. Amla was sweeping both sides of the wicket, cutting and cover driving with precision, at one stage eluding four boundary riders. The pair amassed 236 in 55 overs, Amla reaching his 150 off 151 balls.
I can’t remember when lunch intervened, but we finished the season as we started it. With a carvery. Now in the delightful company of the Maharaja of Melbourne. It is to be hoped that the conversation and the cricket were as appealing to him as the carvery. He certainly enjoyed his food, and then, at tea, the chance to take selfies in front of the pavilion and near the pitch. Good talk of SRT and novels, too. Bairstow dropped Sibley on 159 at 425-2, Sidebottom the crestfallen bowler. Two balls later, though, Amla wafted at a wide one and Bairstow dived and held on. I recall a 9-1 off-side field about this time. Sibley stepped cool-headedly across and worked the ball through the mid-wicket gap. Solanki enjoyed himself, skipping down the track to Patterson to hit him for a four and six. As bubbly as a posh picnic, his 50 came up off 45 balls with five fours and three sixes, reminding us what a VVS batsman VSS can be at this level. Ten balls later, he was caught by Ballance, sweeping Rashid. 502-4. Wonderful batting for the neutral to admire, but all so belated for Surrey that it might have felt like an affront to some.
Sibley was concentration and controlled power personified. Of this kind, England can’t have too many Cooks. He drove Williamson for six over mid-wicket, a similar stroke for four brought up his 200, off 484 balls, I believe. Davies dappled the late-afternoon light with his Goweresque timing and finished 25 not out, Surrey 572-4. Rashid was six runs short of his 200 by the close. The wrong sort of 200. How the fortunes of one former saviour of English cricket have fallen. Here, surely, was another’s rise.
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