Sibley, Pope, Anderson star for England

Monty Panesar Monday 06th January 2020 10:04 EST

Is Test cricket as strong as it used to be or has white-ball cricket taken over? This year the T20 cricket World Cup will take place in Australia. Cricket authorities are talking about 4 day Tests, something that Virat Kolhi is not in favour of. He clearly prefers five-day Test cricket. These are interesting times for cricket.

The recent series between South Africa and England is turning out to be a well-fought contest. I strongly believe that former cricketers should be in administrative roles. The likes of Graeme Smith being appointed as the Director of South African Cricket is welcome indeed. Having played the game at the highest level they are best suited to understand what the game requires and what needs to be done to grow and maintain the standard of cricket, especially Test cricket. There is a feeling that some of the modern-day cricketers lack the skills required for Test match cricket. In that context, in the second Test between England and S.Africa, the innings of Dominic Sibley was a refreshing moment for Test cricket. To see old fashioned Test match batting is good, especially in the face of underemphasis on the importance of Test match cricket. It reminded me of Alastair Cook and how he loved batting long hours. The Ashes series of 2011/12 was a good example. In the dressing room, it always feels good to have a batsman who can bat all day because we bowlers love to rest and put our feet up!!

For young upcoming batsmen, Dominic Sibley is a fine example of how to develop their game for Test cricket. It is important to develop both the off side and leg side strokeplay. Another youngster showing positive signs is England's Ollie Pope. He has the repertoire to play both sides of the wicket and has the ability to accelerate his innings as he did in the first innings of the Test match against S.Africa. Joe Root is beginning to build a cluster of top six batsmen in the England team and I am sure both Dominic Sibley and Ollie Pope will feature in that line up. Jofra Archer's injury has made it easy for England's selectors to play both Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad. I have always been a Jimmy Anderson fan. His haul of five wickets against S.Africa in the first innings gave him his 28th fiver. He now has the highest five-wicket haul among English fast bowlers. He is 120 wickets away from Shane Warne's record. Can he keep playing for that long?

On another note, and a tragic one, the recent bush fires in Australia has brought the cricket community together. The area that has been damaged is half the size of England and over 500 million animals have perished. People in Auckland were seeing orange skies as a result of the bushfires. My heart goes out to the Australian people and the firemen who have been working tirelessly to stop the fires. The Australian tennis and cricket players have come together to raise money for the victims and the people of Australia. Sport has always been at the forefront of philanthropical causes and that for me is heartwarming. 

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