January 08, 2020
Going back to Grace, via Hutton, Boycott and Cook, England have a long history of stoical openers. Dom Sibley’s 133 over 495 minutes in Cape Town suggests an interregnum is over
Dom Sibley’s blunting approach hints a long line of openers has an heir | Andy Bull
Anxiety, collapses, swing bowlers, off-spinners, tea, and opening batsmen, especially opening batsmen. They’ve been part of the character of English cricket since the beginning – staunch, and stoical, as anyone who faces up to the new ball on a green pitch needs to be. Grace and Stoddart, Hobbs and Sutcliffe, Hutton and Washbrook. There was an interregnum then. Until, on 4 June 1964, Geoff Boycott came along. He made his debut in the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge (c Bob Simpson b Grahame Corling, 48), with Hutton’s blessing. “Very much the sort of player who could become a class opening batsman,” Hutton wrote. “He shows the sort of qualities we associate with the outstanding batsmen of the past.”
Boycott missed the next Test at Lord’s because he had chipped a bone in a finger. “I noticed that England opened with Ted Dexter rather than picking a specialist opening batsman in my place,” Boycott remembered later. “That seemed significant, my place was being kept open.” He was right. He had won the spot. It was the first link in a chain that spanned the best part of the next six decades. From then on, England would seldom be stuck for an opener.
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