Jennings ton sets up England push for victory


Keaton Jennings batted brilliantly and completed his hundred from 231 balls
First Test, Galle (day three)
England 342 & 322-6 dec: Jennings 146*, Stokes 62, Foakes 37
Sri Lanka 203 & 15-0: Kushal 8
Sri Lanka need 447 runs to win

Keaton Jennings ended his two-year wait for a Test century as England moved into a formidable position on day three of the first Test against Sri Lanka.

Jennings scored a brilliant 146 not out to allow England to declare late in the day on 322-6.

Sri Lanka closed on 15-0 and must bat the final two days for a draw or score a record 462 to win to deny England a first away win since in 13 Tests.

Jennings’s century was his first since his ton on debut in 2016.

He batted patiently early on as England lost wickets in the morning session, before attacking after reaching three figures for the first time in 22 innings.

The tourists had lost Rory Burns and Moeen Ali in poor fashion before lunch, with captain Joe Root also falling, but Jennings put on 107 with Ben Stokes, 77 with Jos Buttler and 61 with Ben Foakes.

The late contributions ensured Sri Lanka must make the highest successful run chase in Test history, at a ground where the highest winning chase is just 99.

If rain does not wash out large portions of the final two days then England will likely earn their first Test win overseas since 2016.

Jennings returns to form

Jennings has been one of the most criticised England batsmen in recent months as he struggled to repeat the success of his debut century in Mumbai against India in December 2016.

He was dropped from the team in 2017, after one fifty in five matches, before being recalled in June and averaging just 19.20 against Pakistan and India this summer.

That meant his place was under threat for this series but England stuck with the Lancashire player following the retirement of fellow opener Alastair Cook.

On the spinning pitch in Galle he looked far more comfortable than he did in swinging and seaming conditions in England.

He batted sensibly, pushing the ball into open spaces for the majority of his innings and persistently looking to reverse sweep, one of his favoured shots.

Sri Lanka chose not to review an lbw decision just after Jennings passed 50 which replays showed would have been out had they done so, but that was the only chance he gave in the innings, other than a sharp caught and bowled effort when attacking late on.

He was unbeaten on 98 at tea but afterwards safely reached three figures before kicking on to better the 112 he made in Mumbai in conditions which also favoured spin.

Lower order impress again after more early failure

England had started the day on 38-0 with both Jennings and Burns at the crease but debutant Burns, who was out for nine in the first innings, did not seem to settle.

He was frantic throughout and then, on 23, he called for a single to mid-on and was run out a yard short by Dimuth Karunaratne’s direct hit.

England persisted with Moeen Ali batting at number three and his dismissal was equally poor, chipping his 11th ball to mid-on off Dilruwan Perera for three.

Root was less to blame for his dismissal, caught behind off a good delivery from Rangana Herath for three, but that left England 111-3 at lunch, 250 ahead.

Stokes impressed alongside Jennings after lunch however, and the pair took the game out of Sri Lanka’s reach.

At first Stokes was watchful but he then became increasingly aggressive in his 93-ball 62, which included three sixes and four fours, and he was only dismissed when he received a brilliant delivery from Perera which pitched outside leg and hit off stump.

Buttler batted in a similar vein, becoming more aggressive during his 35, and debutant Foakes once again made an impression.

In the first innings he batted calmly for his debut century but on day three showed his ability to attack when the situation requires, scoring 30 not out from 28 balls with three sixes.

The performance did little to answer the questions about the balance of England’s team, where they seem to have plenty of middle order batsmen but few scoring runs in the top three.

More to follow.

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