MUMBAI (Reuters) - Keaton Jennings will make his England debut as captain Alastair Cook’s latest opening partner in the fourth and penultimate test against India at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday.
Lefthander Jennings will replace teenager Haseeb Hameed, who broke his little finger during England’s defeat in the third test in Mohali and returned home to undergo surgery.
Jennings, the son of South African former wicketkeeper and coach Ray, arrived in India only on Monday after being called up from the England Lions squad in the United Arab Emirates.
“He’s going to play. He’s going to open the batting and another great opportunity for a guy to come in and play,” Cook told reporters, adding he was reminded of his own debut in 2006 when he flew into India 48 hours ahead of the game and hit a century in Nagpur.
“He’s in good touch, spending bit of time in the middle with the Lions, getting hundreds and stuff. Pretty special day for him tomorrow.”
The 24-year-old Jennings, who scored six centuries for county side Durham last season, is Cook’s 11th partner at the top of the order in the game’s longest format since the retirement of Andrew Strauss four years ago.
Cook said the frequent changes of his opening partner did not impact his own batting.
”It doesn’t really affect me,“ the 31-year-old said. ”You don’t just bat with your opening partner, you bat with people at three, four, five as well.
”I will just make sure Keaton plays the way he wants to play, keep him calm I suppose. Obviously it’s disappointing about Has, we obviously found a player there.
“But if Keaton comes in and does well again, it’s just adding to our top-order players.”
Fast bowler Stuart Broad, who suffered a foot injury during the second test in Visakhapatnam and subsequently missed the game in Mohali, was still doubtful for the Mumbai match, Cook added.
The Wankhede Stadium, overlooking the Arabian Sea, has been a happy hunting ground for England, who have won their last two test matches against the hosts at the venue in 2012 and 2006.
England made a strong start to the series in Rajkot when they made India fight hard in their second innings to eke out a draw but lost the next two tests to trail 2-0 against the world’s number one test side.
They drew lot of flak for defensive batting while chasing an improbable 405 to win the second test and coach Trevor Bayliss said it was time for the side to show more positive intent.
”It’s a clear message I knew was coming out,“ Cook said. ”We do have to take that second innings in Vizag out of it, where we played that way.
”But I wonder whether that did kind of tie into the third game and there was a bit of hangover and we did go back into our shells a bit.
“After chatting around a bit I think it was quite clear message that we wanted to play a little bit more aggressively and with a bit more intent.”
editing by Nick Mulvenney