MUMBAI: Batsman Keaton Jennings said scoring a century for England on his debut against India Thursday had been a “dream come true” after waking up a bag of nerves.
“I woke up at 5:00 am thinking I’d missed the bus so I jumped out of bed and panicked about where everything was,” the 24-year-old told reporters after his knock of 112.
“But then I settled myself down when I saw the time. If someone had told me this morning that you’ve got a Test match hundred I would have bitten their arm off.
“It’s been a dream come true, and just surreal that it’s come on debut,” Jennings added.
The South African-born opener guided England to a solid start of 288-5 in the first innings of their must-win fourth Test at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.
The left-hander was almost caught while still to get off the mark and took until the 12th ball to get his first runs on the board, but when he did there was no stopping the tall opener.
“When the ball looped up to gully my heart was in my mouth and thought ‘No you got a nought in your first innings’, but thankfully it went to ground and I went from there,” he said.
The 24-year-old hit 13 fours, including a trio of audacious reverse sweeps during his 219-ball stay. It was one of those sweeps that brought up his ton mid-way through the afternoon session, with Jennings raising his hand in delight.
“The emotion that went over me at that moment in time, the elation, the pride, the satisfaction to go to a test 100 was really incredible, really special,” he said.
Jennings, who was only called up to the squad after Haseeb Hameed was injured in the third Test, put on a partnership of 99 with captain Alastair Cook.
Cook was stumped on 46 by wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel after swinging at a Ravindra Jadeja delivery.
Joe Root could only make 21 before he was caught at slip by Indian captain Virat Kohli off a spinning Ravichandran Ashwin delivery.
Moeen Ali helped guide Jennings to his ton and scored a half century himself before hopelessly scooping up an Ashwin delivery that landed comfortably in the hands of Karun Nair.
Ashwin turns it on
Jennings walked soon afterwards when Cheteshwar Pujara caught a little flick off the bat for Ashwin’s third wicket of the day and England were on 230-4.
Jennings, who was born in Johannesburg and captained the Proteas under-19s, became the latest South African-born English cricketer to score a ton on their international Test debut.
Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior both made centuries in their first outings while Jonathan Trott reached three figures in the second innings of his Test debut.
Jennings, whose mother is English, moved to England in 2011 after leaving school, committing himself to four years there so he could become eligible to play for the national side.
He opted for England to further his career in a similar move to Kevin Pietersen in the early 2000s.
Players who were born abroad are eligible to play for England after spending four years in English county cricket, a policy that has attracted some controversy.
“Hopefully I can keep doing what I did today and make a good problem (for selectors),” said Jennings, referring to Hameed’s recent impressive performances.
England trail 2-0 in the five-match series and anything less than a victory would see India seal the contest.
Ashwin grabbed his fourth wicket when Jonny Bairstow was caught on 14 as India restricted the tourists somewhat after their strong start. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler were at 25 and 18 respectively.