Ton-up Jennings Born-again batsman scores rare Test century as England dominate Sri Lanka
Patience against spin delivers unbeaten 146 Two of Sri Lanka’s top five batsmen are injured
Galle is so called, according to local tradition, because Portuguese ships had been blown off course and heard a cockerel, or galo, which indicated where they should aim for land. But a cockerel’s crowing will be nothing compared to that of England’s cricketers if they defeat Sri Lanka in their bastion of Galle.
Against almost every reasonable expectation, England have been so vastly superior to the hosts since the opening session – when their top-order batsmen almost gave the game away – that only rain can save Sri Lanka. It has been lashing down with tropical intensity during this Test, but at night, when every inch of the ground has been covered by tarpaulin.
It will take a lot of rain for England to be denied. The ball is turning generously, if not bouncing alarmingly, and two of the home side’s top five batsmen are injured: Sri Lanka’s captain Dinesh Chandimal is nursing a groin strain, and Dhananjaya de Silva hurt his hand while bowling in trying to stop a straight drive. And England, as a rarity, have three decent spinners.
After scoring an unbeaten 146 off 280 balls, Keaton Jennings could crow as loudly as anyone if, or when, England complete their victory – not that he would. A former South Africa Under-19 captain, and the head boy of a South African school, would never do anything so ill-disciplined as gloat in public.
As a rule of thumb, an individual hundred is worth more in the first innings of a Test, because it shapes the team’s position more than a second-innings century. The exception to this rule may come in Galle, where the pitch turns more and more as the match progresses
Jennings – who since his schooldays has played for Durham and Lancashire, if not Derbyshire – batted with the self-abnegation that perhaps only a cricketer from his background could have mustered.
This is the age of big hits and boundaries: yet Jennings, resuming on 26 on day three, added only four more fours to his overnight three in reaching his second Test century, never letting himself go in self-indulgence, having cut out the cut that had been the downfall of his first innings. The virtues of Jennings are more temperamental than technical: against pace, he still props half-forward, but it was only in the first hour of day three that he had any more pace to face.
Suranga Lakmal held the captaincy as Chandimal was off the field all day, and that was such an unfulfilling job – as Jennings blocked and nudged, swept and reverse-swept but nothing else – that Sri Lanka’s one-pace bowling did not even take the second new ball.
Wearing a hair shirt would be uncomfortable most days, and this was again gruellingly hot, yet so fit is the modern England cricketer that Jennings was running hard and selflessly not only until he had passed his hundred – which contained 59 singles – but until Joe Root declared to leave Sri Lanka seven overs and two days to survive. England’s Ashes campaign will be all the stronger if Jennings comes through the next tour of the West Indies against their pace bowlers, but the real test of his technique will surely come from Mitchell Starc, swinging the new ball on a full length, and Josh Hazlewood kicking from a length on fourth stump.
Acceleration did not come from Rory Burns, who was run out as he
In this age of big hits, Jennings added only four more fours in reaching his century
did not factor in that a more agile fielder had replaced Rangana Herath at mid-on, or from Moeen Ali, who has been a little too casual for a No 3; whether he likes it or not, Jonny Bairstow will have to bat there in the second Test in Kandy. Acceleration did not come from Root either, who had sobered down after his giddy first innings, as he was caught behind, defending, when Herath found his rhythm.
It came instead from Ben Stokes, who hit three sixes, Jos Buttler, who hit one, and Ben Foakes, who added three more. Stokes is successfully wrestling with the demons who are Asian spinners, but he should have kicked away the off-break that bowled him. Buttler was the final wicket of Herath, who retires with 433 Test wickets – the most of any left-arm spinner – at 28 runs each. Meanwhile, Foakes was able to indulge himself as he never could in the first innings of his debut.
Another record-breaking bowler, James Anderson, has been pun- ished for a misdemeanour in Sri Lanka’s first innings. He ran down the pitch – nothing whatsoever, of course, to do with roughing the pitch up for England’s spinners – and showed dissent when umpire Chris Gaffaney hauled him up, earning himself one demerit point from the International Cricket Council.
“Anderson showed dissent by first complaining at the umpire’s decision and then throwing the ball into the pitch after he had received a first warning for running on the wicket,” according to the ICC statement. “After the match, Anderson admitted the offence and accepted the sanction proposed by match referee Andy Pycroft. As such, there was no need for a formal hearing,” it added.
Any player who accumulates four demerit points in a 24-month period is suspended, and Anderson now has two. He had better save up the rest for the Ashes next summer.
Firm foundation: Keaton Jennings drives square on his way to compiling 146 not out to put England firmly in charge of the first Test against Sri Lanka