Keaton Jennings century pushes England to within sight of victory over Sri Lanka in first Test

Keaton Jennings has hd to wait nearly two years for his second Test ton — his first came on his debut. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Keaton Jennings century pushes England to within sight of victory over Sri Lanka in first Test

  • Tourists in a commanding position in first clash of a three-match series in Sri Lanka.
  • Jennings acores 146 not out to score only his second Test century.

GALLE, SRI LANKA: Keaton Jennings’s first century since his 2016 debut helped England put Sri Lanka on the ropes in the first Test on Thursday, setting the hosts a daunting 462 to win at notoriously low-scoring Galle.
The visitors declared at 322 for six on day three with Jennings 146 not out after a patient innings that saw the under-pressure opener deal deftly with the hosts’ spin attack.
At the close, Sri Lanka were 15 without loss after Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva hung on for seven overs, leaving a further 447 to make at a ground where no team has successfully chased more than 99.
England, with a 139-run first-innings lead and 38-0 overnight, lost a somewhat shaky Rory Burns, brought in to fill the huge shoes of the retired Alastair Cook, in the morning session, run out for 23.
Moeen Ali, out first ball in the first innings, fared little better in the second, driving straight to Rangana Herath at mid-on off Dilruwan Perera for three.
Herath, in his last game before retiring having got his landmark 100th wicket at Galle, then got England captain Joe Root out for the second time in the match, caught behind for three.
But Jennings looked comfortable against the spin of Perera and the others. An LBW appeal when Jennings was on 58 was turned down and Sri Lanka chose — erroneously it turned out — not to review.
Ben Stokes hit a brisk 62 off 93 balls that saw three sixes, including one back over Perera’s head and an almighty sweep high over midwicket off Dhananjaya de Silva to bring up the 300.
Shortly before tea he became Perera’s second scalp, a demon of a ball pitching outside leg and angling back to take the Durham all-rounder’s off stump.
Jos Buttler smashed a quick 35 before being caught off Herath while Ben Foakes, the centurion hero of the first innings, belted out 37 before falling to spinner Akila Dananjaya.
Jennings’ performance will go some way to silencing his critics — many of whom were calling for him to be dropped after a poor series against India this summer when he averaged just 18.
Having scored 112 at Mumbai in December 2016 on his debut, he was axed after a disastrous tour of his native South Africa in 2017. He returned against Pakistan in May this year.
After stumps on Thursday the 26-year-old conceded that the past 18 months had been “really tough.”
“I’ve faced some things in my cricketing life I’ve had to learn from. I’ve had to develop myself,” Jennings said.
“It’s just really pleasing and a big thank you to the people who have stuck with me over the last 18 months, backed me through some tough times, waking in the night panicking and stressing,” he said.
“When you’re waking up at 6.30 in the morning and reading about your technical deficiencies it’s not human to say it wouldn’t affect you,” he added.
“I have only watched Keaton Jennings live in two test matches and he has got a hundred in both I must be his lucky charm !!!,” former England great Allan Lamb said on Twitter.
“Well played fantastic and thoroughly deserved by the hard work.”
Sri Lanka’s spin bowling coach Piyal Wijetunge said however that the hosts still have a chance to win, in part because the notorious Galle wicket is behaving differently this time.
“There is a big challenge, but it’s not the kind of wicket we usually see in Galle. If the batsmen do their duty, the 440-odd that we need will be tough, but it’s not impossible,” he said.
Sri Lanka’s best hope though is the weather, with rain playing havoc with the series so far and thunderstorms forecast for Galle on Friday and on Saturday — should the hosts survive day four.


Maurizio Sarri does not fear the sack after Chelsea’s sorry show against Manchester United

Updated 35 min 2 sec ago
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Maurizio Sarri does not fear the sack after Chelsea’s sorry show against Manchester United

  • Italian still focused on job at hand with Blues out the FA Cup and falling in the Premier League.
  • Sarri has lost the fans in a short space of time at Stamford Bridge. (AFP)

LONDON: Maurizio Sarri insists he is not worried about being sacked as Chelsea manager despite his troubled side’s lacklustre FA Cup surrender against Manchester United.
Sarri faces a fight to save his job after FA Cup holders Chelsea crashed to a 2-0 fifth round defeat at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
Ander Herrera headed United into the lead from Paul Pogba’s cross in the 31st minute.
France star Pogba doubled United’s advantage on the stroke of half-time when he met Marcus Rashford’s cross with a diving header.
Sarri endured chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” and “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as furious Chelsea fans showed their frustration at the club’s fifth defeat in their last 10 games.
Chelsea’s stars, publicly criticized by their manager on several occasions this term, hardly looked to be battling to keep the Italian as they failed to muster a shot on target after the 11th minute.
Sarri’s fragile relationship with his players, combined with the mutinous atmosphere among supporters, increased the feeling that the former Napoli boss might not survive until the end of his first season with Chelsea.
Demanding Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has acted quickly in the past when managers have been perceived to have lost the support of the squad.
But Sarri is adamant he isn’t concerned about his perilous position and he claimed he is solely focused on salvaging his club’s turbulent season.
Asked if he was worried Abramovich might be ready to wield the axe, Sarri said: “It’s not my problem.
“I was only worried about my position when I was in League 2 in Italy, not now.
“I am worried about the results, not about the fans. Of course I can understand the situation.
“I can understand our fans, because the result wasn’t really good. We are out of the FA Cup.”
Following widespread reports that Sarri’s players are underwhelmed by his stubborn refusal to change his tactics, the 60-year-old did make the alarming admission that he wasn’t certain he still had their backing.
“Of course I’m not sure, but I think so. I think the situation with the players is very good in terms of our relationship but that’s not so important,” he said.
“What’s important is to play and get good results.”
Chelsea supporters called for their club’s former legend Frank Lampard, now in charge at Derby, to be hired and directed foul-mouthed abuse at Sarri.
“Not really very well, but sometimes yes. For everything there is the first time,” he said when quizzed on if he heard the taunts from his own fans.
Sarri believes his situation will be improved significantly if Chelsea can string together a winning run, starting with Thursday’s Europa League last 32 second leg against Malmo and the League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday.
“It’s really very easy. If we are able to win three or four matches in a row, it will be easy. Of course it’s difficult to win five matches in a row,” he said with a curious smirk that suggested he didn’t really believe his own outward optimism.
“We need of course more aggression, more determination in the situation inside our box and inside the opposing box.
“My job is to work with my players to try and improve in a few days because we conceded the second goal without determination or aggression.
“The difference was there. We played 78 balls in the opposing box and United only 16 balls our box. We are supposed to win.”
Having previously questioned whether his players understood his football philosophy, Sarri repeated that complaint.
“Not completely at the moment because, especially in a situation like the second half, we have to move the ball faster mentally and materially,” he said.
“We need more movements without the ball and less individual actions.”