Keaton Jennings marks first day in Tests with ton...
IF ENGLAND take anything away from this fourth Test it is the fact they have uncovered another fine batting talent in Keaton Jennings.
Alastair Cook’s side could still win this match and head into the final Test at Chennai next week 2-1 down, and with hope of drawing what has been a gruelling winter series.
But England, 288-5 at the end of day one, did not entirely convince, unlike Jennings who could not have made a more emphatic statement on debut, and during his first day as a Test player.
The Durham opener was Cook’s 11th opening partner in the four years since Andrew Strauss retired as captain.
However, even the 24-year-old admitted matching Strauss’ achievement of scoring a century in his first Test innings was beyond his own expectations.
The impudent reverse sweep for four by Jennings that brought up his landmark off Jayant Yadav shortly before tea told of the confidence and poise he felt in his first match at this level.
Nobody – not even Jennings himself – knew if he could translate the form that had seen him score 1,548 County Championship runs at an average of 64.50 for Durham last summer onto the biggest stage of all.
Yet after a nervy start that saw him dropped on nought at gully and survive an Indian review for lbw on 10, he grew into his new surroundings.
By lunch, with England 117-1, the Johannesburg-born batsman had reached 65.
By tea he had become the first England player since Jonathan Trott at The Oval in 2009 to score a debut hundred. Trott, another product of the South African system, went on to become England’s rock at number three during the four years that followed that superb knock in south London.
Jennings could do the same given Hameed, whose broken finger cut short his own debut tour here, looks certain to come back into the team next summer following his own fine start to his international career in the first three matches of this series.
England have not replaced Trott at three since his retirement last year. Joe Root, who made a disappointing 21 yesterday, averages 51.66 since moving to that position last summer.
Yet his form has tailed off this winter and given England have used four batsmen at four since the Yorkshireman’s promotion for the Pakistan series in July, maybe moving Root back to his old place in the order would solve two problems come next summer?
Regardless, the positive start by Jennings has put England in the rare position of now having a surfeit of decent top-order batsmen. Still, the frailties that have been exposed during this series by India were still evident on the first day of this match and it says much that other than Jennings only Moeen Ali went on to make a half-century.
Even then Moeen threw away his wicket just two balls after getting to 50, top-edging an attempted sweep to Ashwin to midwicket.
Two balls later Ashwin did for Jennings as well, the opener
prodding tentatively to gully on 112.
Ashwin would also remove Jonny Bairstow, sweeping hard to deep backward square leg, soon after to reduce England to 249-5 and the wobble was then on.
Thankfully Ben Stokes, who survived an lbw review of his own to Ravindra Jadeja on 23 late in the day, and Jos Buttler, steadied the ship before the close and ensured there was no debilitating first-innings collapse to match those that sealed England’s fate during the defeats in Visakhapatnam and Mohali in the previous two Tests.
Cook and Root had gone in the first two sessions here, England’s captain inexplicably stumped off Jadeja 17 minutes before lunch and Root edging Ashwin to Virat Kohli, who took a fine reflex catch at slip.
The afternoon also saw some added drama as umpire Paul Reiffel was taken off the field after being hit by an errant throw from Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the 49th over of England’s innings.
Reiffel, replaced on the field by third umpire Marais Erasmus, went to hospital for a scan. Thankfully he was passed fit and was expected to stand again on day two of this match as The Cricket Paper went to press.
When England do bowl, they will be without the services of Stuart Broad, who failed to recover from the tendon injury in his right foot, and was replaced by Nottinghamshire team-mate Jake Ball.
Breakthrough: India celebrate the first wicket of the day, that of Alastair Cook
Worry: Umpire Paul Reiffel is helped by support staff
India England 288-5 - Stumps, Day One
On his way: Jennings cuts the ball away on his way to a debut century