England captain Joe Root shows faith in Keaton Jennings ahead of South Africa Test
England will take on South Africa in the fourth and final Test in Manchester on Friday. The hosts lead the series 2-1.Updated: Aug 03, 2017, 22:23 IST
England captain Joe Root believes Keaton Jennings’s calm approach will stand him in good stead as he battles to come through a tricky period in his fledgling Test career.
The opener made a century on his England debut against India at Mumbai in December.
But his subsequent nine Test innings have yielded just one fifty.
Jennings has found life particularly tough during the ongoing Test series at home to his native South Africa, with two ducks in six innings.
But he heads into Friday’s fourth Test at Old Trafford having made a morale-boosting 48 in difficult conditions during the second innings of England’s 239-run win over South Africa at The Oval that left the hosts 2-1 up with one to play.
It was a timely knock with the 25-year-old under pressure for his place ahead of England’s Ashes tour of Australia.
But at the very least the son of Ray Jennings, South Africa’s isolation era wicket-keeper and later a caretaker national coach, appears to have retained his place at Old Trafford.
“He’s a very level-headed guy, he’s got a very strong character and throughout he’s been very much the same in the way he’s approached his training and in each game as well,” Root said of Jennings at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
“It’s great to see someone so light of experience be very mature and go about it in the right way,” added Root of Jennings, qualified for England through his mother and via residence.
“The way he played in that second innings was extremely great to see, I’m pleased that he’s been able to get a score and hopefully that’ll lead into some more runs this week.”
Johannesburg-born and raised Jennings is averaging just a touch over 15 against the Proteas, with his technique coming under severe analysis from several pundits.
“It’s tough, and that’s why it’s called Test cricket, it can be a very hard thing to break into,” said Root.
“You come from county cricket where there’s not a huge amount of exposure to the media and external scrutiny -- and you have to get your head around it pretty quickly,” the star batsman added.
“It is a test of character, it’s a test of skill.”
Part of that test this series has been facing bowlers of the calibre of accurate seamer Vernon Philander, whom the Proteas hope will be fully fit after he was laid low with a mystery stomach illness at The Oval.
“He’s a world-class bowler and puts the ball in good areas,” said Root of Philander.
“Throughout this series there have been surfaces that have been more bowler-friendly and he obviously poses a big threat to us and we don’t take him lightly.
“We will make sure we do our homework on him if you like and we are fully prepared for all the challenges the whole attack brings.
“I think it’s wrong to single out individuals -- you know on any given day any one of those guys can put in good performances.”
Heavy rain in Manchester had made assessing pitch conditions difficult, with heat lamps used to dry sections of the outfield.
But Root, one match away from victory in his first series as England captain, said: “There’s been a lot of chat about the weather around, but most importantly all we need to focus on is making sure we look to win this game.”
But the bad weather meant Root felt unable to reveal if England would stick with the same XI.
“It (the wicket) was under-prepared and a lot can change in the next 24 hours, so we’ll make a judgement on the side tomorrow (Friday).”