• England might have to resort to Jennings

    Keaton Jennings hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory in past Tests against the country of his birth, but the freak injury to Rory Burns might force Chris Silverwood to send for the opener.

    The Three Lions were forced to thrust Zak Crawley into the fray to partner Dom Sibley after Burns injured himself playing football in a warm-up just a day before the second Test.

    England’s problems with the opening spots stretch back to before the retirement of Alastair Cook when a procession of players, including Jennings, were trialled to front the challenge against the new ball.

    Cook’s retirement left England scrambling to find two openers, but in more recent times Burns and Sibley started to show promise as a partnership, with the former putting on the stronger displays.

    England’s lack of opening options is underscored in the Lions squad picked to tour Australia, with Crawley and Sibley the only regular openers in that group.

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    Jennings has struggled against South Africa and seam bowling in general, but his ability on the sub-continent puts him in contention to tour Sri Lanka in March. He averages just 17.32 outside Asia. The team management has, however, praised the attitude of the Lancashire opener in the past.

    The fourth Test of the series will be played at the Wanderers – a venue that Jennings will be familiar with from his time in the Gauteng cricket system.

    It would certainly be a gamble for England to recall Jennings to face the Proteas after his dreadful 2017 series, when Vernon Philander tormented him. England has gambled on Jennings before, but he hasn’t played cricket since September.

    Jennings faces competition for the place as Burns’ replacement from several batsmen, some of whom enjoyed excellent seasons in the County Championship.

    Most of the batsmen England will consider haven’t laced up their boots in a while, but Jennings could just nudge ahead of the likes of James Vince, Gary Ballance, Dawid Malan and Sam Hain.

    England hasn’t quite got to grips with the surfaces in South Africa and could perhaps benefit from the presence of someone more accustomed to the way the pitches play. A recall for Jennings is unlikely to prove popular with the majority of England fans, but it wouldn’t be the strangest thing the team has done in the last five years.

    Photo: Gallo Images

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