Dominic Sibley became the second player to carry his bat in a Youth Test match when he scored an unbeaten century on day two of the second under-19 Test match against Coca-Cola South Africa at Boland Park on Monday.
Sibley’s effort was part of an enthralling day’s play that saw England grab a first innings lead of just three runs before South Africa replied with 17/2 at the halfway stage of the match.
With the seamers getting little help out of the surface apart from uneven bounce the onus rested on the South African spinners and Michael Faasen and Vassilli Orros responded by taking two wickets each.
The ball is now very much in South Africa’s court to put together a total that will stretch the England batting in their attempt to square the series. They do hold one trump card in that the visitors will have to bat last on what could be a difficult series.
This means that they need to occupy the crease for as long as possible to make sure that England have to start their chase when the pitch is well worn.
With plenty of time on their side patience was the name of the game as England went about building their innings on the second morning. They scored 78 solid runs in the morning session for the loss of Ben Duckett’s wicket and must have been well pleased to go to lunch only 100 runs in arrears.
Opening batsman Dominic Sibley reached his half-century (134 balls, 8 fours and a six) in the session to give him 50s in successive innings in the series.
The South African quicks could not get any pace, bounce or movement out of the surface but they will have been encouraged by the fact that the lanky left-arm spinner, Michael Faasen, was starting to turn and bounce from his end.
That could be an important factor with England scheduled to bowl last in the match.
Sibley remained the dominant figure throughout the afternoon session and, although he lost two more partners, he guided England to 206/6 at tea with the first innings deficit being reduced to just 22 runs.
Almost cruelly, Sibley was stuck on 99 not out at the break (261 balls, 10 fours and a six) but the 20-minute wait seemed unlikely to disturb his rock-like composure.
South Africa declined to take the second new ball when it became available which was understandable in the conditions. Faasen and leg-spinner Vassilli Orros had bowled 39 overs between them out of the 91 in the innings for a wicket apiece.
Both wickets had fallen leg before wicket which was not surprising on a surface where the odd delivery was keeping low.
Sibley reached his well deserved century second ball after tea (263 balls, 10 fours and a six) but suddenly ran out of partners as the two spinners took three wickets between them for 8 runs in the space of 20 balls to give South Africa the unexpected prospect of a slight lead or at least being even on the first innings.
Eventually England finished with a lead of three runs with Sibley carrying his bat for 112 off 292 balls (10 fours and a six).
The two South African spinners shared six wickets (Faasen 3/59 in 35.4 and Orros 3/39 in 17).
The South Africans were left with 17 overs to bat in the day.
As had been the case in the first innings Oliver Stone, the England captain, soon got back among the wickets and removed both South African openers by the time the total had reached 5. He had an opening spell of 5-4-2-2.
South Africa finished the day on 17/2 for an overall lead of 14 runs.