Jennings, Dawson added to England squad as replacements
Keaton Jennings and Liam Dawson are to join the England squad as replacements for the remaining two matches of the Test series in India. Jennings, the uncapped Durham opener who is set to make his England Lions debut against United Arab Emirates in Dubai on Thursday, replaces Haseeb Hameed, whose tour ended with a broken finger in Mohali.
Dawson, the Hampshire allrounder who was also selected for the Lions programme this winter before being released to play for Rangpur Riders in the Bangladesh Premier League, was called up to replace Zafar Ansari, who is still struggling with the back injury he sustained in the second Test in Visakhapatnam. Ansari will stay with the squad and continue to receive medical support in India before returning to England on December 8.
Jennings, 24, made his Durham debut in 2012 and was the leading run-scorer in the 2016 Specsavers County Championship season with 1548 runs at an average of 64, which led to him sweeping a host of awards and earning a spot in the England Lions squad. He has been on the Lions programme for the last month, initially at the National Performance Centre in Loughborough and for the last two weeks in Dubai, based at the ICC Academy. He is due to join the England squad in Mumbai on December 5 when they begin preparations for the fourth Test which starts at Wankhede Stadium three days later.
The son of former South Africa coach Ray, Jennings was preferred ahead of Nick Gubbins, the left-handed batsman from Middlesex, and Kent's Daniel Bell-Drummond. Jennings' call-up does not mean he is certain of a debut in Mumbai as England also have Ben Duckett, who opened in Bangladesh, in the squad, albeit his form is a concern.
"Andy Flower told me on Tuesday night," Jennings said. "It was a lot to take in, and very exciting. And then telling my family and the guys at Durham has been pretty emotional. My mum was in tears and my dad was speechless, and they're two things that don't happen very often. All the Durham boys have been great - Mark Wood was bouncing off the walls, although that's not unusual for him.
"The thought of going back to India is exciting too. I've been lucky enough to go there once before as a youngster, when my dad was on the coaching staff of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. That was a great experience, but this is going to be very different. To be going there as a member of the England squad, I'm going to have to introduce myself to a lot of new guys I guess, because a lot of them I only know as opposition. I reckon [Durham team-mate Ben] Stokes will be a good guy to break the ice!"
Dawson, 26, made ODI and T20I debuts this year after impressing on last winter's Lions programme in the UAE. He is also expected to arrive in Mumbai early next week.
It is the second year in succession that Ansari's involvement in a tour has been in some way curtailed. He was picked for the tour of the UAE 12 months ago only to suffer a broken thumb hours after the squad announcement.
Dawson was preferred to Jack Leach despite claiming only 20 Championship wickets in 2016 at a cost of 43.85 apiece. Leach claimed 65 Championship wickets at an average of 21.87 - no England-qualified player claimed more in Division One - but his Somerset captain in 2016, Chris Rogers, suggested he had "emotionally… a bit of a way to go" before he was ready for international cricket. Dawson is the better batsman and fielder, though, and is seen as a reliable, defensive spinner. His attitude impressed the England management when he played limited-overs cricket earlier in the year.
The England squad has now disbanded for five days of holiday, before reconvening to prepare for the Mumbai Test which starts from December 8. Most of the players have travelled to Dubai for a short break, although Stuart Broad's time there will be spent training with the Lions as he aims to overcome the foot injury which kept him out of the Mohali Test.