Mumbai: The moment he got selected for the England squad, South African-born Keaton Jennings called up his dad – former Proteas coach Ray Jennings. “How to play spin in India,” Keaton asked as his father had considerable experience of Indian conditions having been associated with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL.
Other than asking him to ‘drink of water from closed bottles and to enjoy the Indian culture’, it is not known what Ray told his son. But his inputs must have been fruitful as Keaton (112, 219b, 13×4) became the 19th England player to score a Test century on debut. Because of him England ended the day at 288 for five at stumps on the opening day of the fourth Test against India at the Wankhede Stadium here Thursday.
The visitors, after captain Alastair Cook (46, 60b, 5×4) won his third toss of the series, dominated most parts of the day save the last when Ravi Ashwin (4/75) brought India back into contention with some quick wickets including that of Keaton. All through the day, he had bowled lucklessly, but reaped the rewards late in the day as India fought back in a game, which at one point seemed to be slipping out of their grasp.
The hosts still have an arduous task though, as the pitch from early on in the afternoon showed that it has a lot of bounce to offer. A couple of deliveries from Ashwin and Jayant Yadav also turned prodigiously, but then with Ben Stokes (25 batting 84b, 2×4) and Jos Buttler (18 batting 37b, 2×4) at the crease, England would certainly fancy putting up a 400-plus total on the board. It would then be definitely ‘advantage England’ keeping in mind that in the last two occasions it is they who have triumphed here.
England, no doubt, played with a lot of intent. Early on, Karun Nair failed to hold on to a sharp chance from Keaton at gully. The batsman was then on zero and till he made his next mistake at 112, he never looked like looking out. The bowler to suffer was Umesh Yadav.
The highlight of his knock was getting on top of the bounce and playing with soft hands. In between, he also showed that he was ready to play the pull, a couple of ferocious ones off Yadav, and regularly swept the spinners off their length. Too early to say that he showed promise of ‘greatness’, but he certainly demonstrated that he has the potential to become a very efficient cricketer at the top of the order for England.
Cook and Keaton put on 99, and laid the foundation for England to build on. Cook fell stumped by Parthiv Patel off Ravindra Jadeja (1/60) and the captain admitted after the game, that this is the first time he has got stumped.
Joe Root (21) promised much but fell to a fantastic reflex catch by Virat Kohli in the slips. Lured into the drive by Ashwin with a wider delivery that went straight through, Root got the outside edge. Kohli, moving to his right, just managed to stick out his left hand and the ball stuck, even though the Indian captain was wrong-footed.
Moeen Ali (50, 104b, 4×4, 1×6) and Keaton then put on 94 runs for the third wicket and at 196 for two at tea, England were in a position of command.
It all changed quickly however. Keaton brought up his 100 with an audacious reverse sweep and Moeen also was intent in attacking. But he played a sweep too many and top-edged one to be caught at deep mid-wicket. A ball later, Keaton, beaten by the bounce, edged to deep gully off Ashwin and suddenly India were back in the game. Jonny Bairstow’s loss a few overs later further compounded England’s problem.
“Interestingly poised,” as the late Henry Blofeld would have said. Honours even… no, it’s still advantage England.
Dream come true for opener Jennings
For England opener Keaton Jennings it was a dream come true, while for the man who finally got him out – Ravi Ashwin – it was good reward after the end of a hard day’s work.
‘No, I wouldn’t have believed anyone if they would have predicted that I would get a century on debut in Tests. It would have been too far-fetched,” the England opener said after the end of the day’s play, with satisfaction writ large on his face.
“I still feel it’s a bit surreal, the feeling hasn’t sunk in yet. It is a dream come true for me. I woke up early at 5am and the first thought that came to my mind was that I had missed the team bus. Thankfully, I did not,” he added with a wry smile.
When asked whether he had received any tips about how to tackle Ashwin, the left-handed opener stated that his skipper had told him what to expect.
“No denying the fact that he is a great bowler,” pointed out Jennings. “He’s got an average of 18 against left-handers. So what do you do? You just have to back your technique, try and stay positive. It’s his skills versus mine. That is what cricket is all about.”
Jennings was of the opinion that first innings total would be critical looking at the behaviour of the pitch. “In the morning it was a bit like tennis ball with the new ball. As the day went on, it started to take little bit of turn. After lunch it started to turn a little bit more and towards the end it started to turn quite nicely,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile Ashwin informed that the current Wankhede pitch is pretty similar to the one on which they lost to England four years back.
“When we played (against) England last here, the morning of the first day wicket was a bit damp, it spun a little and it was absolutely flat on day two and three. I see very similar traits here,” said the off-spinner.
“If we could have got one more wicket, we were on the course to do that (it would have been better), but probably we will come out tomorrow (Friday) morning and try and snap couple of wickets and see how quickly we can stall their innings,” added Ashwin, who grabbed three for 14 in a fantastic post-tea spell.
Bhuvi’s Reiffel throw ‘scalps’ Paul
On-field umpire Paul Reiffel was forced to leave the field Thursday for medical attention after being hit on the back of the head by a throw from fielder Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in the post lunch session of the fourth Test between India and England here.
The former Australia fast bowler was stationed at square leg when the ball thrown by Kumar from deep square-leg hit him flush on the back of the head and he fell down in a heap on the turf.
Play was halted for a while as on-field medical attention was administered before the dazed official left the ground to go into the pavilion for further rest and recuperation. Reiffel was replaced by Marias Erasmus, who was doing the third umpire’s duty indoors and his duties were transferred to reserve official C Shamsuddin sitting inside.
The incident happened close to the first hour of play in the second session and drinks were taken ahead of schedule to make up for the stoppage.
Later Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) officials informed that Reiffel was fine. His CT scan had not indicated any internal injuries. However, as a precautionary measure he had been advised rest and is recuperating in a local nursing home.