Durham star Keaton Jennings may yet invoke relegation exit clause

Keaton Jennings

Keaton Jennings

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Batsman Keaton Jennings could yet invoke the relegation clause he inserted into his four-year contract with Durham.

Durham were relegated to Specsavers County Championship Division Two and hit with points deductions in all formats for next season, as well as losing their Test status, after accepting a financial bailout from the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Durham star Keaton Jennings bats against Surrey. Picture by Frank Reid

Durham star Keaton Jennings bats against Surrey. Picture by Frank Reid

Jennings, a left-handed opening batsman, was the leading run-scorer in Division One last summer after hitting 1,548 runs at an average of 64.5.

His breakthrough summer featured seven hundreds, including a double century against Yorkshire, to prompt his call-up to the England Lions squad this winter.

The 24-year-old, who was named cricket writers’ player of the year for 2016, said his immediate focus was on the Lions’ tour to the United Arab Emirates and he has not yet made a decision on his county future.

Jennings said: “At the end of the day, everything’s open. But it (leaving) is not something I would like to happen, because I love Durham and the guys at Durham.

“It’s been a long summer and I’ve got a lot of thinking to do over the next two or three weeks and a lot of conversations to have.

“At the moment, I’m really excited to be here, with the Lions. I’m really excited for the next month or two and I want to focus on that first.”

Jennings’ contract extension was announced in August, before the depth of Durham’s troubles became fully apparent.

Durham begin next season with a 48-point deduction in Division Two, while key men Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman have both agreed moves to Surrey.

Jennings negotiated the terms of this contract with his father and inserted the relegation clause in the event of mass departures.

He learned of the unusual demotion after an exam as part of his Bcom financial accounting qualification.

He added: “That day I walked into an auditing exam. I’d walked into it not finishing all my coursework; through the season you run out of time.

“I think I failed the exam, which doesn’t help, and then walked out of the exam to the news.

“It’s sad what has happened, but the guys have got to face the facts of what has happened and go from there.”

It has been suggested the Championship captaincy, held by the 40-year-old Paul Collingwood, could be used as a lure to retain Jennings.

He insisted the leadership was not a deciding factor in his future.

“There has been discussions but nothing’s been decided, from Colly’s point of view either,” Jennings said.

“I’ve never been a guy to put a club under the pump and say ‘if you don’t give me the captaincy, I’m going to leave’.

“For me, whatever’s right for the team must happen. If it’s right that I’m captain, then I’ll captain.

“If it’s not right, I’m more than happy to provide a supporting role.”

Jennings was speaking at the ECB’s National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough as a three-year partnership with athlete analytics firm Catapult was announced.

Andy Flower, the Lions chief and ECB’s technical director of elite coaching, rates Jennings highly and does not anticipate Durham’s predicament to be a distraction in the coming weeks, which see his side play the UAE in three 50-over matches and Afghanistan in a three-day game.

“He’s got a lot going for him,” Flower told Press Association Sport.

“He’s spent six years at Durham, he really cares about that place. That comes through in my conversations with him.

“So he’s concerned about it, but I don’t think it will distract him this winter.”