By Graham Hardcastle
Keaton Jennings is hoping his move to Lancashire can take his game to “new heights”.
Jennings has made the move from Durham on a four-year deal, swapping the North East for the North West and one Emirates sponsored ground for another.
The left-handed opener made six Test appearances for England from early December through to early August, scoring 294 runs.
Unfortunately, he was unable to build upon a debut hundred against India in Mumbai and, ironically, made his final appearance to date against his native South Africa at Old Trafford.
Early last week, the 25-year-old was back at Old Trafford speaking about life with the Red Rose following seven seasons with Durham.
“I was really excited when I walked through the gates as a Lancashire player,” said Jennings.
“You have to trust the people who have advised you throughout your life for 25 years, and it is the right time for me to make the move.
“I’m excited to work with Glen Chapple. I remember facing him as a player and thinking ‘this guy can really play’. So, as a batsman, I’m looking forward to picking his brain. He was a fantastic cricketer, and from what I have heard from the lads already he is great being in charge too.
“The challenge of cricket stays the same. As a batsman, you are facing a ball, trying to hit it the same way. But now this is a new environment and challenge. Hopefully it will kick me on to new heights.”
For now, Jennings will put Lancashire life to the back of his mind.
He flies back to South Africa for a holiday with his family this weekend before returning to England to link up with the Lions.
His next step on the road back to England’s Test team sees him travel to Australia with the Lions to shadow the Ashes squad next month, with new county colleagues Alex Davies, Liam Livingstone and Saqib Mahmood accompanying him Down Under.
“It is a massive opportunity, and to work with Andy Flower and Graham Thorpe, people I admire hugely,” he said. “They are fantastic people.”
Jennings, a man with captaincy experience with the Lions and for Durham, has played 93 times at first-class level, scoring 5,345 runs.
The vast majority of those runs have come as an opener, although he started his career with Gauteng in 2011 as a number three.
He has been mooted as a possible to fill that position in England’s Test team, while he may also have to bat there for Lancashire given the recent success for Davies and Haseeb Hameed.
Still, he admitted: “From being five, I have always opened.
“I enjoy the challenge, the messing with your head it does at times. I have a preference – but it’s a team game, and it’s what is best needed for the team. You want to win trophies together.”
Lancashire’s first choice top four next season, in whatever order, will be Jennings, Davies, Hameed and Livingstone. They are all on England’s radar.
“It is an impressive top four,” he said. “Hopefully we can grow as four young guys.
“You need to score runs for your county to be considered to play for England. So it is all about putting in those match-winning performances for Lancs to get recognised.”
And on the decision to leave Durham, he added: “I owe them a lot.
“There was a lot of talk about me moving here last winter, but I loved my last season with Durham.
“There are some great people in there, and some of my best mates are in that dressing room, guys who I will have beside me at the altar when it comes to me getting married.”