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Sibley savours alliance with Amla

By Chris Devine

Dominic Sibley took additional pleasure from spending a significant part of his record-breaking LV= County Championship innings in the company of Hashim Amla.

In a display of rare class for one so young, Sibley marked his third first-class appearance by striking 242 from 536 balls against Division One runners-up Yorkshire.

Aged 18 years and 21 days when reaching 220 on day three, he became the youngest double-centurion in the history of championship cricket - a record that previously belonged to Northamptonshire’s David Sales - and the 13th-youngest player to make 200 or more in a first-class game.

The legendary WG Grace is the only Englishman to have made a double-ton at a younger age, doing so in a match against Surrey at the Oval 147 years ago.

And Sibley acknowledged his feat was particularly satisfying given Amla - the world’s number-one ranked Test batsman - was his partner for a mammoth third-wicket stand of 236.

Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, the Whitgift School student said: “It’s something I’ll never forget, not just for the innings I played but to spend that much time with him (Amla) at the wicket was incredible.

“Just watching him from the other end, I had the best seat in the house. His knock of 151, to watch that live, it was one of the best knocks I’ve ever seen. I said I wanted to bat with him and to put 200 on with him was a dream come true really.

“In about a month’s time I’ll probably be watching him on my TV, scoring hundreds against Pakistan in Dubai!”

With South Africa Test captain Graeme Smith set to resume his career at Surrey next summer following an injury-hit first season in south London, Sibley accepts he is unlikely to open the batting next April.

Yet he insists the prospect of returning to second-team cricket serves as motivation rather than a setback.

“Obviously, Graeme Smith comes back and he’ll probably open the batting with Rory (Burns) so I’ll have to go into the second team, score some runs and prove myself again, which is brilliant - it challenges you and makes you score runs, which is what the game is all about,” Sibley added.

Smith and Amla are two of many role models for Sibley at Surrey. Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting had a spell with the club earlier in the summer, while executive director Alec Stewart - who has taken charge of team affairs since Chris Adams’ departure in June - represented England in a record 133 Tests.

While appreciative of the opportunities to learn and grow and the Kia Oval - “there’s no club in the country like Surrey for that” - Sibley credits another experienced figure, Whitgift’s head of cricket and ex-Surrey batsman David Ward, as a key factor in his ability to bat long.

“With regards to me batting for long periods of time, David Ward at Whitgift said to me when I was younger ‘you have got to score big hundreds - no-one cares about 80s, 90s and 100s, but people really open their eyes when they see innings of 150 plus’.

“I’ve taken that on board and scored double-hundreds at age-group levels and now I’ve brought it through and done it at first-team level, which is great.”

Unlike the majority of county cricketers, Sibley will be back at school on Monday morning, where he will doubtless attract attention.

“To be honest, I would rather it be normal, but whether that happens or not I don’t know,” he said.

“I’m still getting messages through and I wouldn’t say it’s sunk in just yet. It’s all a bit of a shock really.

“Kids of my age don’t really get that sort of media coverage very often and when it happened on Thursday I suppose it was all a bit of a surprise. It’s very touching people sending me their congratulations. It means a lot to me and I appreciate it.”

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