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November 17, 2019

England’s Denly returns to form


November 17, 2019

WHANGAREI, New Zealand: Joe Denly proved his form and fitness for next week’s first Test against New Zealand with an increasingly assured half-century in Whangarei.

Denly damaged his ankle ligaments ahead of the T20I series just over two weeks ago. Tripping on a boundary rope as he attempted to take a catch in training, the early prognosis was that he would be struggling to recover in time for the Test series.

But he not only demonstrated his fitness here, he showed the tempo and technique that England require from their No 3. And while there were moments when he looked hurried — he was a little fortunate to survive one delivery from the admirably hostile Kyle Jamieson that reared on him and produced a fence that flew between slips and gully — he was, for the most part, admirably compact. On the drive and pull, he is as elegant as anyone in this team.

Denly’s intervention helped ensure it was, in the end, a pretty decent day for England. Having set themselves the challenge of batting for a full three sessions — if that sounds like a modest aspiration, it’s worth remembering that this is a side which has been bowled out for under 100 three times this year — they did so for the loss of eight wickets (and seven on the day) gaining time at the crease and acclimatising to the slower pace of life in this format of the game.

It wasn’t entirely comfortable. The first hour or so saw New Zealand’s fast bowlers extract life from the pitch that was absent for all but Jofra Archer when England had the ball and, had Ollie Pope been dismissed on 7, nibbling outside off stump, they would have been 126-6 and in some trouble.

As it was, however, Scott Kuggeleijn (playing, with England’s blessing, as a far from like-for-like concussion replacement for Hamish Rutherford who had been struck by an Archer bouncer the previous day), had over-stepped and Pope was reprieved. He and Denly subsequently added 90 in 20.4 overs for England’s sixth wicket.

Earlier England had struggled against an admirable new-ball attack. Dom Sibley, struck on the helmet by a well-directed short ball from the impressive Jamieson, was then lured into an uncharacteristic drive outside off stump before Joe Root and Ben Stokes departed within a couple of minutes of one another.

Root could, perhaps, count himself unfortunate: replays suggested there may have been an inside edge on the delivery that was adjudged to have trapped him leg before. Stokes edged to the cordon as he attempted to leave one that bounced on him more than he anticipated.

Scores in brief: England 355-8 (Buttler 88 not out, Pope 88, Denly 68) lead New Zealand A 302-6 decl by 53 runs.

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