England batsman Dom Sibley is sure he has all the tools to thrive on the spinning pitches of Sri Lanka, the final stop on his winter world tour.
The Warwickshire opener has been living out of a suitcase for the last four months, making his international debut in New Zealand last November before proving his credentials in South Africa where he averaged 54 across four Tests and scored his maiden century at Cape Town.
Next stop for Sibley was a trip Down Under with England Lions – with selectors prioritising experience in Australian conditions ahead of a well-earned rest.
The 24-year-old responded with back-to-back hundreds in Hobart and Melbourne and managed just six days at home before rejoining the senior side for two Tests against Sri Lanka.
Conditions in Galle and Colombo promise to be radically different to everything that has come before, but Sibley is convinced he can succeed on traditionally turning pitches.
Speaking to the PA news agency ahead of Saturday’s three-day warm-up match in Katunayake, he said: “I’ve been jet-setting all winter but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m in a good rhythm and it’s nice to tick off another place around the world.
We've got two Tests coming up and I want to score two hundreds. Dom Sibley
“I came on an under-19s batting camp here but that was quite a long time ago. It’s going to be a challenge but I’m looking forward to embracing that challenge. I’ve got two practice games to try and find my feet and I’ll be trying to adapt quickly.
“I know I’ve got all the shots to play against spin but it’s just a case of executing well and making good decisions under pressure and in the extreme heat when things are tough.
“It’s about having confidence within myself and having the fearlessness to play those shots. Scoring runs is my job so I’ll keep trying to churn them out. To get two hundreds in Australia was great but I want to keep scoring hundreds.
“We’ve got two Tests coming up and I want to score two hundreds. I’m realistic enough to know that might not happen but I’m hungry, and I think I’ve shown that.”
England leant heavily on the sweep when they whitewashed Sri Lanka 3-0 on their last visit in 2018, nobody more so than Keaton Jennings. Both of his Test centuries have come in the sub-continent, including his career-best 146 not out in Galle, and he has been recalled to challenge Sibley, Zak Crawley and Joe Denly for the top-order slots.
Sibley is typically seen as a more upright player, but insists he is ready to get down on knee if required.
“I just play my own way but if I feel the sweep is on, I think I showed in Cape Town that I’ve got the shot,” he said.
“It’s just about how I feel and if the situation dictates the need to play it.”
England’s spin contingent are on hand to get the batsmen up to speed in the nets and Sibley enjoys pitting himself against his pals.
“I get on well with all the spinners in our group, they’re good lads,” he said.
“But you’re all professional sportsmen so it’s a competitive environment. You don’t want to get out to your mate in the nets and cop a bit of stick, but at the same time you want to experiment with a few things.
“We’ve got a lot of experience here and I’ve already picked a few people’s brains. I’ll always have those conversations because I’m always looking for new ideas to add to my game.”
England are expecting their opponents over the weekend, a Sri Lanka Cricket Board President’s XI, to be a modest standard compared to the side they will face in a first-class four-day match next week. They are likely to use all available players at some stage over the three days, with batting retirements and regular personnel changes in the field probable.
Late arrival Ben Stokes will feature having netted with the team on Friday, but caution over slow left-armer Jack Leach’s calf injury means he may not bowl until the final day.