In his 6-match old Test career, England opener Keaton Jennings has probably found out how cruel the game of cricket can be. Just a few months away, Jennings was garnering praise from all over after scoring a century on his debut in India but has not managed to live up to the expectations since then.
His performance in the ongoing series against South Africa has mounted huge pressure on him. After managing just 92 runs in the first 6 innings, the left-handed batsman had another failure with the willow as he was dismissed by Duanne Olivier for just 17 on the opening day of the fourth Test at Old Trafford on Friday (August 4). In fact, he would have not even managed to cross the double-digit mark had Kagiso Rabada managed to hold on to a catch when he was batting on just 4 but the southpaw failed to capitalise on the reprieve, perishing after adding just 13 runs.
Speaking after the day’s play, England assistant coach Paul Farbrace admitted that the underpressure opener is going through a tough time before stating that the team management would back the ‘honest’ batsman.
“It’s a harsh world to come in to,” admitted Farbrace. “You would expect every player to have guts, determination, a desire to improve but we thought in the second innings at the Oval that he [Jennings] really fought and got stuck in. He really applied himself. Again today, he showed glimpses of someone who has made some adjustments.”
What will worry Jennings is the way in which South African bowlers are dismissing him. Throughout the series, his dismissals have been of a repetitive nature as he has found himself vulnerable to the ball around the top of off stump and the Proteas have completely bullied him.
“He’s found out a lot about himself these last few Test matches,” Farbrace said. “There are areas of his game that he would want to work on. There hasn’t been time to work on a couple of things he would like to and enable him to be more successful in Test cricket.”
Farbrace further said that the team has high regard for Jennings’ character and determination.
“The one thing we would judge him on is his character to cope with the last few weeks and I have to say he is a very honest young man who works extremely hard at his game,” said Farbrace. “Given the chance to get through this spell, I think he will make a success at international cricket. You would expect me to say that but when you have someone who is honest and is driven to be as good as they can be, you want to stick with them.”
Meanwhile, England finished the opening day on 260 for 6 with Ben Stokes once again top-scoring for the hosts with 58. Captain Joe Root also compiled a half-century but South Africa bowlers never allowed the batsmen to settle down and convert the start into big ones. Rabada and Olivier were the most successful bowlers, taking 2 wickets each,