No split loyalties for England batsman Jennings

Keaton Jennings knows he will have to remain calm and focused should he be selected in England's Test team when they host South Africa - the country of his birth - in 2017.

Jennings was born and raised in South Africa, and captained their Under-19 side before moving to England to play for Durham in 2012.

Four years later, the 24-year-old became eligible to play for England and accepted a call-up during their recent tour of India for the final two Tests - the opener making a century on debut.

England welcome the Proteas in May for three one-day internationals, before the two sides contest three Twenty 20 internationals and four Tests, starting in July, and should Jennings maintain his form with Durham he is likely to be involved.

That could bring split loyalties for some, but Jennings insists he considers himself an Englishman and will have no problem facing South Africa.

"I don't think it will feel weird playing against South Africa, but I know that the intensity around that will be heightened," he told The Times.

"There will be all the chat again about my nationality. And if I do play I will have to make sure I handle that and be calm, settled and focused."

He added: "South Africa isn't my home any more. My mum and dad said the other day about me 'going back to the UK' and I corrected them. 'No. I am going home, that's my home', I said.

"The north-east of England is where I have bought property and where my local pub is. When I come back to South Africa now, I drive round using GPS because I don't know my way.

"I would have been naive if I didn't expect [his South African background] to be commented on, but I didn't expect the huge quantity of the backlash. I can't pretend it didn't bother me a bit."

Jennings may face a battle to open with Alastair Cook against South Africa should Haseeb Hameed continue his impressive rise, the Durham man chosen to replace Hameed when he broke his finger in India.

It does not worry Jennings, though, who is prepared to play in any position if it means further Test outings.

"[I want] just to have the opportunity to play Test cricket, whether I'm playing in my preferred role or something slightly out of the norm," he said.

"I'd be happy to bat at number 10 and be a fielder. 

"If the opportunity is there in July to bat at number three and that is what [England coach] Trevor Bayliss or Cook want me to do then I will bite their hand off."

Read Full Story