England v South Africa Tests
Charmed Jennings faces defining day
England opener lives a charmed life on day three, but will resume on day four as he seeks to retain his spot as opener
Chris Stocks at The Oval, London
30 July 2017, 07:35 AM AEST
Keaton Jennings displayed a touch of good fortune on day three of this third Test against South Africa that would have made a cat proud.
The England opener might not have had the full complement of nine lives as he toughed out an innings of survival to reach the premature rain-induced close unbeaten on 34.
Quick Single: New boys push England lead past 250
He did pretty well, though, to gain five lives as he fought gamely for his Test future following a tortured series so far against South Africa.
Jennings, playing just his fifth Test, had averaged 8.8 in the series coming into England’s second innings at The Oval.
His position as Alastair Cook’s 11th opening partner in just under five years is still under the microscope.
Yet he has a chance now of keeping his place for next week’s fourth and final Test at Old Trafford if he can kick on and post a significant score on the fourth day of this match.
England, leading by 252 with nine wickets in hand, would be delighted if Jennings could oblige. That’s not only because it would save them from making a difficult selection decision ahead of Manchester but also it would significantly increase their chances of winning this match and taking a 2-1 series lead into the final Test.
Sport sometimes throws up stories that seem destined to come true. In the case of Jennings, the amount of luck he has had so far suggests that may well be the case here.
The most glaring of his lives came on six when he edged Vernon Philander to third slip and Dean Elgar put the catch down.
He’d inside edged a Philander delivery perilously close to his leg stump on two and did so again on 10.
The 25-year-old was then given out caught behind off Kagiso Rabada on 33 but survived after successfully reviewing the decision.
Oh, and he was very nearly bowled on 18 by Morne Morkel, only for the ball to miss the top of his off stump by about an inch.
They say fortune favours the brave and in the case of Jennings it appears he has coped well with the pressure during this low run of scores at the start of a career that had started in Mumbai back in December with a century in his debut Test innings.
"To be honest he’s been pretty good," said James Anderson of his teammate.
"Sometimes you do see it in people, when they go through a bad trot, you can physically see them struggling in and around group. But he’s been really good, he’s dealt with it very well.
"Obviously it’s frustrating for him because he’d want to get more runs, but seeing how he got through that tricky period tonight, that might be what he needs to kick-start a good run of form.
"I thought Morne Morkel bowled brilliantly in his first spell, so to get through that was a really good effort."
Morkel bowled Cook with a delivery almost identical to the one Jennings missed on 18.
That wicket brought Tom Westley to the crease and the debutant Essex batsman, who made 25 in the first innings, played with rather more fluidity than his partner in reaching 28 from 38 balls.
The fourth day of this match will be a big one for Westley as well then as he looks to establish himself as England’s latest No.3 batsman ahead of this winter’s Ashes.