Keaton Jennings has been put on notice that Haseeb Hameed could soon be “breathing down his neck” for England’s opening spot.
Jennings, whose Test career started with a debut century in Mumbai, has had a torrid summer at the top of the order and was dismissed in timid fashion as England posted 260 for six on the first day of the fourth Investec Test against South Africa.
He was lucky to survive an early caught-and-bowled chance at Emirates Old Trafford and eventually nicked off for 17, taking his tally to 109 runs in seven innings against the country of his birth.
They should call Keaton Jennings "Duke", because every ball's got his name on it.— Jonathan Liew (@jonathanliew) August 4, 2017
Jennings only came into the England side when Hameed broke his finger in India and, though the 20-year-old has been short of runs himself this term, the latter is widely expected to become a fixture at the highest level.
He was an interested observer at Emirates Old Trafford, his home ground, and England’s assistant coach Paul Farbrace did not sugar coat the reasons for Hameed’s appearance in the dressing room.
“If you’re in the England team there is always, and should always be, someone knocking on the door for your place, whether they’re here at the ground breathing down your neck or doing it in the championship,” said Farbrace, after half-centuries from captain Joe Root and deputy Ben Stokes kept the hosts in the hunt for a 3-1 series win.
“This was just another opportunity to keep (Hameed) in the fold and make him realise he’s very much part of the future of the England cricket team.
“We’ll be keeping a close eye on his championship game (against Hampshire ) on Sunday and we want him to make runs. Hopefully he’ll be pushing contention to get back into the team at some point.”
If Hameed is pushing from the outside in, it is clear that Jennings must soon do likewise to preserve his own place.
Sky just showed Haseeb Hameed in nets at Old Trafford as Jennings was out cheaply again #bringhimback— Chris Slater (@chrisslaterMEN) August 4, 2017
Although Farbrace offered a positive assessment of the 25-year-old’s mental qualities, he was blunt in assessing what the Durham man needs to do to remain in post.
“Score runs, that’s the bottom line,” he said.
“Test cricket is a harsh world to come into. A lot gets said about players getting found out at international level, well he’s found out a lot about himself in these Test matches.
“There are areas of his game he’d like to work on. There just hasn’t been time to take a step backwards and work on the things he would like to to help him be more successful in Test cricket.
“But the one thing we would judge him on is his character, his personality to cope with the last few weeks, and I have to say he’s a very honest young man who works extremely hard at his game.
“I think he will make a success of international cricket.”
South Africa seamer Duanne Olivier, who accounted for Jennings and Root after being recalled for the injured Vernon Philander, insisted the away dressing room was in confident mood.
The tourists were given a late shot in the arm when Kagiso Rabada cleaned up sparring partner Stokes with a yorker late in the day, leaving momentum up for grabs in the morning.
“We really bowled well today, it’s not like they ran away with the game at any stage,” he said.
“They batted well at the end, Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, but it felt like even stevens today and that wicket at the end maybe sent it our way a little bit.”
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