On the eve of the second test between England and West Indies it is time to say farewell for now to Joe Denly.
Denly has become something of an internet pariah of late, led by some classless articles by members of the media such as Michael Vaughan and now finds himself dropped for this second test having failed to fight off the competition from his understudy Zak Crawley.
Denlys' career is a frankly bizarre one, with him having made his debut for the ODI side against Ireland in 2009 and his T20I debut against Australia a few days later. He was a late omission from the winning T20 world cup squad of 2010 and then spent 8 years in the wilderness with a disastrous move to Middlesex; before a shock recall to the set up in Sri Lanka in 2018 taking the Man of the Match award after taking 4/19 with the ball. (He was also MVP of the blast and Royal London Cup).
Having missed out on another world cup winning squad; he has played 15 consecutive tests averaging 29.53 with the bat.
Whilst he has not set the world on fire with the bat; he was introduced to the test arena in the inferno that was the batting order having just been dismissed for 77 in the Carribean despite their lauded talents.
And here Denly has been dependable. Batting 4 initially he scored 50s in the last 3 Ashes tests, with a determined gritty 50 at Headingly allowing for Stokes to at least face a much older ball than he might have having come in at 15-2. Old Trafford followed with him opening scoring 50 in another dismal England batting performance. Finally a match winning 94 at the Oval (and an absolute screamer of a catch). Denly whilst averaging not a lot seemed to appear when England required him most.
Onto New Zealand again he held his ground scoring a valuable 74 in the first innings and then made 35 in the second innings, top scoring and at least providing resistance when the rest of the batting order did the most English of things; collapse. In South Africa Denly faced the second most number of balls in the series behind Dom Sibley as England adopted using the Top 3 as a shield for the stupendous talent held in Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope. It went well, a series domination. However with an average of 30 across the series calls for his head returned.
A failure in the first test scoring 18 and 29 perceived not good enough despite having faced incredibly hostile conditions on Day 1 and the morning of day 2. Whilst Zak Crawley, Denlys' understudy top scored with 76 batting at number 4 in the second innings. Joe Denly is now dropped and given his age, 34, it is likely to be permanent.
Despite certain areas of the internet having a despairing anguish towards him for not being good enough, he has built up a large following #Denlyguys routinely is seen throughout cricket twitter. The reasons are complex for someone with an "average" average. I will in brief describe them here:
1) Grit. Joe Denly came into the side that despite an abounding amount of talent had the stick ability of teflon. Being ever consistent and having a phenomenal durability to hang around and bludgen the new ball until it was safe for numbers 4,5 and 6 to emerge. He may never have set the world alight with his average, but his ability to stop a collapse is seemingly unrivalled at this current time: only Marnus Labuschagne has crossed 100 balls in an innings more than Denly in the last year.
2) A genuinely good bloke. If you need any evidence of this, please watch the video of him giving Zak Crawley his England cap
3) He's one of us. A man of Kent, his Kentish accent, comprehensive schooling and turbulent career: he is awfully reminiscent of your every day man. A far cry from the often lofty perceptions of the England cricket team.
Joe Denly whilst many are pleased to see you go and see you as a negative selection; there is a quote from a dodgy 2000s movie; Nanny McPhee which is incredibly apt.
"When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go"
Zak Crawley the young understudy to Joe Denly has the oppurtunity to put this debate to bed once and for all (and prove my dodgy quote wrong), but with a first class average of 31, there are plenty of reservations about him.
England might not yet be ready for life after the dependable Joe Denly.
Zak Go Well...