Jennings takes well-trodden path
Durham 187 for 4 (Jennings 70) trail Lancashire 262 (Smith 90, Hogg 60, Onions 6-41) by 75 runs
After their experiences over the last few weeks, the selectors may not welcome another South Africa-born player intent on qualifying to play international cricket for England. Yet, by the time the dust has settled on the Kevin Pietersen affair, they may find themselves drawn to another talented young batsman happy to serve out his qualification period in county cricket.
Keaton Jennings is a tall left-hander, still only 20, and has adapted impressively to county cricket with Durham, marking only his third Championship appearance with an assured 70 against Lancashire. He is also a former South Africa Under-19 captain, the son of former South Africa coach Ray Jennings, and is keen to serve out his qualification period, which will be a minimum of four years, to follow in Pietersen's footsteps and play for England.
For the time being that is to Durham's benefit. He is eligible to play county cricket through his Sunderland-born mother and has forced his way into the side after scoring two double hundreds for the second team. Promoted to open against the champions, he passed his latest challenge with great assurance, relishing the battle with Glen Chapple before falling to a bat-pad catch facing Gary Keedy, Lancashire's left-arm spinner.
"Even from a young age my Dad has tested me and put me under pressure and always taught me never to back down, so if you can test yourself against someone like Chapple, someone who is at the top of his game, and succeed then you grow as a person," Jennings said. "To have him bowl at me and to test myself against him was a privilege."
Jennings was given the platform for his assured display by another masterful performance from Graham Onions, which all but ended Lancashire's hopes of taking control of a match that has been heavily disrupted by rain. Taking the new ball from the River End, Onions ensured Lancashire lost their last four wickets for 22 runs, by claiming 3 for 12 in 21 balls.
Having resumed on 221 for 6, Lancashire's only hope of a positive result was through weight of runs and they were instead dismissed for 262, with Onions taking his tally for the summer to 62 Championship wickets. In 26.1 outstanding overs at Aigburth, he was only hit for five boundaries, should England's selectors want to take note.
Lancashire's collapse allowed Jennings the time to build an innings. He saw off the new ball without any great difficulties and although he edged Tom Smith twice through the slips, deserved his maiden Championship half-century.
He had more difficulty coping with Simon Kerrigan and Keedy, Lancashire's pair of left-arm spinners, and it was little surprise he gave a catch just one over after he should have departed when he advanced down the wicket to Kerrigan and Gareth Cross fumbled the stumping.
Jennings was clearly frustrated at being unable to complete his century but has no doubt that, like Pietersen before him, he has made the right decision in turning his back on South Africa to try and qualify for England.
"There are a lot of reasons why I have come over here, but you get a good opportunity in the county system," Jennings said. "I am all for fairness and if you're not good enough you can hold your hands up and accept you are not good enough. It was a difficult choice, but in terms of my career I think it was the right one and my Dad is backing me 100%."
Kerrigan and Keedy continued to make inroads but by the close Durham had progressed to within 75 runs of parity. Unless the two sides contrive a result, having lost over a day and a half to the weather, the match looks destined for a draw to leave Lancashire possibly needing victory in their final two matches to avoid relegation.
"Everyone is frustrated by the weather," Keedy admitted. "This is looking like a draw, but we can only go into the next two games pushing for two wins and seeing where it gets us.
"Durham have won the last four, so a draw would probably see them safe. The first aim is to get as many bowling points as we can. If we bowl them out, we will try and smack a few and then bowl them out in 30 overs. Crazy things happen."
"We will go for the bonus points first and see what happens. Every point is one step closer to staying up. We have to win the last two games, even though that wouldn't guarantee us staying up, but that has to be our focus - last year we needed to win our last two games to win the title, so we know it is possible."