Denly and Sibley make half-centuries before retiring as England start well

By Rory Dollard, PA Cricket Correspondent, Benoni

Joe Denly and Dom Sibley both banked unbeaten half-centuries as England began their Test tour of South Africa with a gentle workout against an Invitational XI in Benoni.

With Stuart Broad absent through illness, Jofra Archer dealing with a cold and Ben Stokes’ arrival delayed by his triumph at BBC Sports Personality of the Year, England opted to give their batsmen the first workout of the trip.

On day one of two they reached 171 for three by tea, the second-wicket pair retiring out simultaneously after sharing a stand of 103.

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Sibley, who made a century in the first warm-up in New Zealand only to average 12.66 in the series proper, ground out 58 from 140 balls while Denly was dropped once as he made a more fluent 60.

Opener Rory Burns had earlier batted for an hour for 16 runs but gave a modest home attack their only success to date when he top-edged Stephen Tait to fine leg.

Captain Joe Root (18no) and Ollie Pope (12no) were next in and enjoyed a trouble-free stint before the break.

Burns and Sibley began cautiously, batting out the first half of the morning session for 37 runs but giving away nothing more drastic than a solitary thick edge for four.

Rory Burns was dismissed (Mike Egerton/PA)
Rory Burns was dismissed (Mike Egerton/PA)

It was a surprise, then, when Burns was tempted into hooking. Tait, who has just nine first-class wickets to his name, drew the top edge and saw the ball loop obligingly to fine leg.

Denly got off the mark in style, thrashing a pull in front of square for four, and helped ease along a lunch score of 76 for one.

He was put down at cover on 28 but went on to rub salt into the wounds of the unlucky bowler, Kyle Simmonds. He set about the spinner, using his feet to launch him for four and six down the ground and then slashed successive boundaries through cover in the following over.

By the time he reached fifty he had overtaken the more attritional Sibley, who needed 59 more deliveries before raising his bat.

Sibley was hit on the helmet shortly before retiring but the decision was a pre-determined one to give others a chance to acclimatise.

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