Opening the batting together for just the third time in Test cricket, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley provided England with an impressive start to their first innings on day one of the third Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
The pair batted for the entirety of the opening session, with their partnership not ending till the final ball of the fourth over after the lunch break. Sibley was the man to depart, finding Dean Elgar at backward square leg of the bowling of Kagiso Rabada, to end the partnership on 70.
By lasting for 31 overs, the partnership was the longest in terms of ball faced by an England opening pair in the first innings of a match since July 16, 2009, when Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook put on 196 in 47.5 overs against Australia. Both Strauss and Cook are now Knight Bachelors. The stand was also the ninth-longest in terms of balls faced by opening pairs across Test cricket over the last 12 months.
The partnership was the third-highest by an England opening pair since the retirement of Cook in 2018, with Rory Burns and Sibley’s stand of 92 in the first Test at Centurion remaining at the top of the pile. The wait for three figures continues: England’s last century opening stand came in December 2016, when Keaton Jennings and Cook put on 103 against India in Chennai.
The ball before Sibley’s dismissal, the opener’s Test average had reached 45.66, slightly above Cook’s career mark of 45.35. Crawley was eventually dismissed for 44. Having made 25, 4, and 1 in his previous three Test innings, it meant he has improved his Test best score every time he has batted for England.