Spring returns to Dom Sibley’s step as he aims to be fit for second Test

Dom Sibley in action during England nets earlier in the tour © Getty Images

England have finally received some encouraging news on the health front, with Dom Sibley feeling better after being struck down by the illness that has cut a swathe through the visitors’ camp.

Opening batsman Sibley became the latest player to succumb to the virus which has hit 17 members of the touring party, including key players and backroom staff, over the past fortnight.

Sibley was to be monitored while travelling with the squad to Cape Town on Tuesday for the second Test, starting on January 3, and he was expected to train on New Year’s Day. The fact that no one else has been hit by the bug over the past 24 hours can be regarded as progress, although England management have been eager not to use the illness as an excuse for the side’s lacklustre performance in Centurion which resulted in a 107-run defeat.

Some 11 England players have been sick. They include Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad, who showed some lingering effects of having spent the best part of the week before England’s first-Test loss in bed, as well as Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, who spent time off the field during the match because they felt ill.

Of most serious concern is Jack Leach, who also spent time in hospital in New Zealand with gastroenteritis and whose situation complicated by his history of Crohn’s disease. Leach is travelling with the rest of the squad to Cape Town, although it remains unlikely he will be considered fit for the second Test, having hardly bowled a ball for a month.

Dom Bess and Matt Parkinson are vying for a spot in Leach’s place, with Bess considered to have the edge at this stage.

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While most of those previously affected have returned to training, it will take time to rediscover their fitness and stamina, particularly in the heat and altitudes they face in South Africa.

While no decision has been taken on Sibley’s availability yet, if he fails to be deemed fully fit for the second Test, it could hand an opportunity to Zak Crawley to open the batting. It could also provide a reprieve for Jonny Bairstow, who looks set otherwise to make way for the now-recovered Ollie Pope.

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.