England drop Mark Stoneman for Keaton Jennings after Pakistan defeat

• Jennings to open with Alastair Cook in second Test
• England opt against wholesale changes for Headingley

Keaton Jennings will step back into what he calls the “ruthless environment” of international cricket after being recalled to the England team for the second Test against Pakistan starting on Friday, at the expense of his close friend Mark Stoneman. England’s response to the nine-wicket defeat at Lord’s is a role reversal from last summer when Stoneman was parachuted in as an opener and Jennings made way, having struggled at home against South Africa after his 112 on debut against India the previous winter.

Jennings, 25, has since made the switch from Durham to Lancashire and started the summer brightly with his new side, registering two Division One centuries, against Somerset and Nottinghamshire, and then another against the latter in the One-Day Cup.

“I was surprised to get the call but I’m really, really happy,” Jennings told the Guardian, shortly after news of his return was confirmed on Monday. “Test cricket is a ruthless environment, with extreme highs and lows. You do a lot of soul searching but to move to Lancashire, be made to feel welcome and have an impact has been special.

“There have been technical things I have worked on, like better rhythm with my hands and transferring my weight, but one of the biggest things is confidence. Last summer was tough. Every fault was massively highlighted. But hopefully it will be a bit different this time.”

Jennings is the first among the procession of Alastair Cook’s opening partners in recent times to get a second crack at the role without filling in for an injured player but, going on the performance of Pakistan’s bowlers in the first Test, he faces a stern examination of this renewed confidence and technique at Headingley.

Mohammad Abbas, who claimed eight wickets at Lord’s for the man of the match award, will offer a similar challenge to that of Jennings’s nemesis, Vernon Philander, last year, bowling from tight on the stumps and offering a bat’s width of movement by standing the seam up to attention.

If Jennings was surprised at the recall, then so too, perhaps, was Trevor Bayliss. Just before the head coach sat down with Joe Root and the national selector, Ed Smith, after the Lord’s defeat, he went on record playing down the chance of a switch given the tight turnaround between Tests.

Though he gave a nod to two openers “getting close” – Nick Gubbins of Middlesex the other – the message was that batsmen need to make their case beyond doubt, “not just averaging 40 and being the best of the rest”. Jennings has made 314 at 44.58 this season.

But Stoneman may have needed removing from the firing line. He went to Lord’s bereft of form with Surrey and returned scores of four and nine. Though his second-innings dismissal came when the leg-spinner Shadab Khan got one to shoot through at shin height from out of the foot holes, there was little sense of permanence before.

The 30-year-old showed courage under fire during the Ashes, not least when peppered in the first innings at Perth, but was vulnerable after averaging 27 from 11 Tests – with none of his five half-centuries going north of 60 – and struggling a touch in the field.

Jennings, who previously played with Stoneman at Durham, said: “I am still close mates with Rock and I feel for him. I have been where he is right now and it’s a pretty low point. But regardless of what happens, we are human beings and will remain close friends.”

England’s second visitors this summer, Australia, have suffered a setback to their already thin squad with Josh Hazlewood’s withdrawal from June’s five-match one-day series with a back problem before the team’s departure.

The 27-year-old joins Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, his fellow Ashes‑winning seamers, on the injured list, while Steve Smith and David Warner are, of course, suspended for their role in the ball-tampering scandal that erupted in South Africa in March.

The tour is Australia’s first outing since, with Tim Paine leading the side and Justin Langer having taken over as head coach. Michael Neser, the uncapped South African-born allrounder who plays for Queensland, has earned the call following Hazlewood’s withdrawal.

England squad for second Test

AN Cook, KK Jennings, JE Root (capt), DJ Malan, JM Bairstow (wkt), BA Stokes, JC Buttler, DM Bess, MA Wood, SCJ Broad, JM Anderson, CR Woakes.


Ali Martin

The GuardianTramp

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