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Dom Sibley nears maiden Test century after 116-run partnership with Joe Root sees England build huge lead

LETS be honest, there will be times when Dom Sibley is the perfect cure for insomnia.

Englands new opening batsman is stodgy, ungainly and even his best mate would not describe him as a dasher.

Dom Sibley batted superbly as he hit his maiden Test 50
James Anderson wasted no time mopping up the South Africa tail on day three

But he loves batting and has limitless patience. Thats why England chose him for Test cricket and there are signs he might be able to succeed on the ultimate stage.

This is a man who bats as though he would prefer ten-day Tests rather than the four-day version that is currently up for discussion.

Sibley recorded his first half-century for his country yesterday as England build a commanding advantage on day three of the Second Test.

His timing could not have been better, either, because Englands first-choice opener Rory Burns has already flown home after injuring ankle ligaments playing football on Thursday.

Sibley chose the perfect moment to step up.

Burns sees a specialist this week to find out if he needs surgery on his left ankle. If he does, he will miss the two-Test trip to Sri Lanka in March.

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Sibley finished 85 not out and England were 218-4 with an overall lead of 64. They should win here and level the series at 1-1.

His innings came after James Anderson completed his 28th five-wicket haul in Test cricket – beating the all-time England record of 27 by Sir Ian Botham.

Anderson picked up his 28th Test five-fer with two quick wickets on day three
Sibley shared a big partnership with Root as England extended their lead

Ben Stokes also took a sort of five-for, becoming the first England player other than a wicketkeeper to hold five catches in a single innings.

Late in the day, captain Joe Root was in impish touch, cruising to 61 and passing 1,000 Test runs against South Africa.

But he edged a catch to slip with ten minutes remaining and then nightwatchman Dom Bess gloved a catch behind from the final ball of the day and completed a pair.

This was the third time in his last three innings that Sibley has increased his Test best score. So nobody can say he is not heading in the right direction.

The 6ft 3in right-hander is clinical punishing anything on his legs – thats his bread and butter shot – but he also played a couple of juicy punches for four through the covers off the back foot.

His technique was dissected in New Zealand and many experts insisted he was too side-on, too cumbersome, too leg-side dominant and too flighty against spin in the way he reached for the ball outside off stump.

But maybe, just maybe, it is a method that will serve him well against the worlds best bowlers.

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Of course, building on a first innings lead of 46 is a damn sight less pressurised than opening the batting at the start of a Test match.

Joe Root looked in fine touch until he was undone by a crack in the pitch
Root reached 50 for the 46th time in Tests but again failed to convert

But take nothing away from the Warwickshire player. This was a solid performance, – chanceless, too – and sets him up for the rest of the series.

Anderson had taken a wicket with the final ball of day two and seized another with the first of day three as he found the edge of Kagiso Rabadas bat.

The hat-trick delivery passed tamely wide of off stump but No11 Anrich Nortje soon edged and Stokes inevitably held the catch.

Anderson finished with 5-40 from 19 overs, superb figures considering this is only his second Test – indeed, second first-class match – since he limped out of the Ashes series on August 1 with a calf injury.

To think the Lancashire bowler might have been dropped here if Jofra Archer had not suffered a sore elbow. Anderson will not be left out now, thats for sure.

And his old mate Stuart Broad was not far behind in terms of quality and control, although his figures of 2-38 were less eye-catching.

Zak Crawley began Englands second innings in frenetic fashion and, after five boundaries, he was caught behind driving at Rabada.

Joe Denly helped Sibley put on 73 for the second wicket in 33 overs in his usual disciplined manner. But then the Kent batsman pulled a catch to fine leg and departed for 31.

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Thats the 20th out of 23 Denly has reached double figures in his Test career but he has passed 53 just three times and has yet to score a century. He could do with a big one.

England made just 57-1 in 28 overs between lunch and tea. There was no rush, England wanted to bat South Africa out of the game.

Root brought more urgency to proceedings, frequently trying to reverse sweep spinner Keshav Maharaj and clipping the quick bowlers.

Sibleys fifty arrived from 140 balls with eight fours and he speeded up a fraction in the final session. He deserves a maiden Test century today.

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