Keaton Jennings provides reminder of quality for new club Lancashire

The former England opener expended plenty of sweat in making an unbeaten 91 as Lancashire replied confidently to Somerset's first-innings 429

White lightning: James Anderson runs in, Lancashire v Somerset, County Championship, Division One, Old Trafford, 2nd day, May 5, 2018

White lightning: James Anderson runs in  •  Getty Images

Lancashire217 for 2 (Jennings 91*, Vilas 83*) trail Somerset 429 (Bartlett 110, Trescothick 100, Abell 99, Parkinson 3-80, Mennie 3-82) by 212 runs
"You will enjoy the fruit of your labour," reads one translation of Psalm 128, and perhaps it will be so with Keaton Jennings. Most certainly the Lancashire opener expended plenty of sweat in making the 91 unbeaten runs he accumulated in 269 minutes this Saturday afternoon. They took him to his first half-century in 23 innings, since he made fifties for England Lions last June, and they have altered the balance of this game.
Jennings's work-colleague for the last half of this day's play was Dane Vilas and the two alumni of King Edward VII School, Johannesburg had put on an unbroken 167 runs for the third wicket at the close. The stand may have encouraged Lancashire supporters to think their side might now bat very long and embarrass Somerset on a turning wicket come Monday. Such thoughts gained encouragement from Vilas' increasing fluency whereas Jennings' composure and appetite for toil will not be unnoticed by the selectors.
But an international recall is more than the opener can wish for on the strength of this innings. All the same he did display the application Test cricketers need in facing down a strong Somerset attack, which featured both the pace of Craig Overton and the probing accuracy of Jack Leach's left-arm spin. Most of Jennings' 14 boundaries were orthodox in execution and played to deliveries which invited punishment; only his two reverse sweeps off Leach hinted at unlicensed freedom.
And Jennings certainly did more for his England chances than two of his Lions colleagues, both of whom departed in early afternoon when playing undistinguished shots. The first was Alex Davies, who batted fluently for 23 before playing a flat-footed cut at Tim Groenewald and edging a catch to Steve Davies. Then Liam Livingstone made only 6 before he tried to work Leach to leg but only contrived to skew the ball off the edge to Lewis Gregory at slip.
That wicket brought Vilas to the wicket and he offered Jennings congenial company until the close. Neither the warm weather nor the sight of three well-fleshed spectators wearing speedos could disturb them. Those garments may have been stretched almost beyond endurance but Lancashire's third-wicket pair were made of even sterner material.
Indeed Vilas was as disciplined as Jennings. For a long time his only boundaries were the straight sixes he thumped off consecutive balls from Leach. Then he retired to his shell and hit only two more fours before bringing up his fifty with a pull off Paul van Meekeren. He had hit four more boundaries by the close of a day, which had gone better than the home side could have hoped when Somerset were 415 for 6.
But having bowled for much of the morning as if waiting patiently for wickets to fall, Lancashire's termination of the Somerset innings was remarkably clinical. The last four of wickets fell for 14 runs in 22 balls, three of them to legspinner Matt Parkinson, who began the tumble when he persuaded Craig Overton into an ugly hoick to the talcum-coiffed James Anderson at short midwicket.
The finest dismissal, however, was the work of Joe Mennie and it accounted for Tom Abell when the Somerset skipper was one short of his hundred. Mennie's bowling was tailored to the moment; he kept a tight off stump line to Abell, denying a single like a diner withholding a tip. Then he arrowed one back from outside off, prompting a rapid leg before decision from Nick Cook. Abell had been on 99 for nine balls. It was as fine a piece of cricket as we saw all day and certainly pleasanter on the eye than the afternoon's budgie-concealment prompted by Old Trafford's pale impersonation of summer. "Now the works of the flesh are evident," we are reminded in the fifth chapter of Galatians. Too true, alas, too true.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

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