06 August 2017

Keaton Jennings and Dawid Malan again look way out of their depth as batting woes continue – but England still home in on easy victory against South Africa

KEATON JENNINGS and Dawid Malan again looked alarmingly out of their depths as England’s batting worries increased.

Jennings was out for just 18 – after being dropped on nought – and Malan perished for just six as their techniques were again brutally exposed.

Keaton Jennings reacts after being caught out for 18 for his latest failure at England level
Keaton Jennings reacts after being caught out for 18 for his latest failure at England level
PA:Press Association
South Africa celwebrate as Dawid Malan exits early again
South Africa celebrate as Dawid Malan exits early again for England
AFP or licensors

Their dual failures weren’t enough to prevent England continuing to dominate the Investec Fourth Test and Joe Root’s men are on course for a 3-1 series triumph.

By contrast to the struggles and anxieties of the top-order, England No.8 Moeen Ali made another happy-go-lucky half-century.

The six with which Moeen reached his fifty was caught nonchalantly by Jonny Bairstow on the England team balcony, much to his delight.

When rain ended played on day three, Moeen was 67 not out and his last 38 runs had come from just 22 balls.

England were 224-8 and have an overall lead of 360 with the pitch playing more and more tricks.

England are nowhere near having a settled batting order with the First Test against Australia in Brisbane less than four months away.

Although Jennings scored a century on his debut against India late last year, he has failed to reach fifty in eight attempts against South Africa. His technique has been exposed and his confidence looks shot.

But who could replace him? Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed, so impressive in India, is having a shocker of a season and was out for just six against Hampshire yesterday.

Surrey left-hander Mark Stoneman is an obvious alternative but the selectors appear unimpressed – they have had two opportunities to pick Stoneman this summer but both times opted for other batsmen.

If England persevere with Jennings, he might fill his boots in the three-Test series against the weak West Indies attack, keep his place and then be traumatised by the Aussie quicks.

Alternatively, of course, he might tinker with his technique and discover the magic formula for scoring Test runs.

Jennings certainly can’t blame bad luck. He was put down in the slips on nought before perishing for 18 to an undistinguished back foot force.

Jennings averages 24.50 in Test cricket. He has been dropped five times and, if those catches had been held, the figure would be 7.16!

Alastair Cook had already squirted a catch to gully and the other new boy, Tom Westley, was likewise held in the gully.

Dawid Malan was also dropped – a tough chance to Temba Bavuma as he ran back from point – but soon prodded the ball via bat and pad into short leg’s hands off spinner Keshav Maharaj. Very poor batting.

Keaton Jennins must know his England place is under threat as he struggles to make an impact
Keaton Jennings must know his England place is under threat as he struggles to make an impact for the hosts
Getty Images – Getty

Malan has 35 runs in his four Test innings and, frankly, hasn’t looked like making a score.

Joe Root played well for 49 before dragging on a ball that kept low and Ben Stokes, dropped at mid-wicket on 19, edged into the slips for 23.

Bairstow was also dropped at mid-wicket but then fell to a tumbling effort by Bavuma at fine leg.

Moeen – he was dropped, too, by the butter-fingered Dean Elgar at slip off Maharaj on 15 – decided to attack as England built their substantial lead.

He three times launched Maharaj into the stands and removed any chance of a Proteas victory.

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