A proud Keaton Jennings admitted that his performances in the English summer “had not been up to scratch” but hoped that his second-innings century at Galle would mark the the start of greater things, both personally and for the England team.
Jennings, who finished unbeaten on 146 as England declared with a lead of 461, told Sky Sports at the close: “It’s a very special day for me personally, but very special to be in such a good position in this Test match. Hopefully we can go on and win it.”
By his own admission, Jennings had been fortunate to make the cut for England’s Test series in Sri Lanka, having averaged 19.20 in six Tests against Pakistan and India this summer, with a highest score of 42.
But, having capitalised on Alastair Cook’s retirement to retain his place as the incumbent at the top of England’s batting order, Jennings reprised the form he had shown on debut against India in December 2016 to produce his second Test hundred.
“I suppose all you can do is try and score runs when you get that opportunity,” Jennings said. “At the end of the day, the summer was tough and my performances weren’t up to scratch, I’m happy to admit that. But hopefully I can keep putting in performances that can lead us to matchwinning performances.”
Jennings admitted that his lack of form in the summer had led to some sleepless nights, but said that he had learned to block out the critics in his attempt to forge a career at the highest level.
“I got myself into quite a state, waking up in the middle of the night and stressing about it. But not anymore, I try to isolate myself and listen to a core group of people who’ve stuck with me for 25-26 years.”
On a pitch that was taking spin, albeit not to the extent that is traditional at Galle, Jennings said that his 280-ball innings was all about choosing the right options against Sri Lanka’s slow bowlers.
“I suppose it was about taking risks at the right time,” he said. “It felt like there was a ball that could get you out, so I suppose it’s that cat-and mouse-game, trying to get off strike, and put pressure on the bowler to get the bad ball.
He shared in a number of key partnerships in the course of his innings, most notably a fourth-wicket stand of 107 with Ben Stokes.
“It’s tough, but when you bat with a guy like Stokesy because of his aura and the way he hits the ball and his way of playing, it’s easier. Jos [Buttler] walked in and belted it all over the place as well, and Foakesy struck the ball unbelievably too, so my role was to get off strike and feed it to them.
“It’s a really pleasing day from a team perspective.”
Jennings’ contribution even won praise from the opposition. “The way he batted, the way he built his innings, it’s a good example for our batsmen as well,” Piyal Wijetunge, Sri Lanka’s spin bowling coach, said. “He had patience and he never played a rash stroke. It’s an example for us.”