In Defence of Denly

Joe Denly gets a lot of stick online. From being too negative in tests, to rage about him being in the T20 team. I'm here to give some perspective on the veteran and why people should maybe consider him in more favourable terms at least in test cricket (I'll leave his white ball credentials out for briefness).

In tests, it is well documented that Joe Denly's average in 30. After a South Africa tour where he was the lowest scoring batsmen after Jos Butler; it isn't surprising that calls for him to be dropped were growing. Given the emergence of Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley and Rory Burns. Englands batting unit looks much more set than it has in the last 5 years; with the number 3 slot being the glaring hole that the media currently wants to be filled. For me that man, is still Joe Denly.

England have tried a lot of players at 3 in recent years. From Joe Root to James Vince to Moen Ali. Denly averages 33.46 at number 3. 9 players have batted number 3 for England more than 5 times in test matches in the last 5 years. Denly ranks 3rd in this list by average. Only Joe Root (who averages over 50 when batting at 4) and Jonny Bairstow average more than than Denly. With the latter being nailed on for a white ball only future; Denly has done a lot better than many give him credit for.

Balls faced is a criteria oft forgotten but is key to grinding opposition down so the middle order start appearing at overs 40 rather than over 5. Joe Denly exceeds at sticking around. Batting number 3 his average balls faced per innings is a staggering 83.5; more than 10 more than his nearest batsmen at 3 in the last half decade. Batting longer, has meant that Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope had a tremendous series in South Africa and whilst scoring at a higher rate would be more beneficial, there's been plenty of talk that Denly's ability to hang around is tactical; he's done his job phenomenally.

He had a poor end to the South Africa series but he averaged 37.67 against New Zealand and then top scored in the first innings in South Africa (50). His lack of conversion rate is a constant frustration with him scoring double figures in 22 of his 26 test innings with no hundreds to his name. Despite this his return to form in the South Africa ODI series; scoring more than double the runs than the next best on a pair of very tricky wickets; Joe Denly is a man for steadying the ship and facing down a crisis.

With England starting to shape into a force over the coming years with an explosion of youth set to come through; an old head with grit and determination to lead this growing group of youngsters might just be what England need. He's been MVP in the blast, has played PSL and Big Bash, he's been dropped and forgotten before returning again. Joe Denly is a lot better than you think. Pressure will be on him to perform, but the ability to face 100 balls and average more than anyone before:

Joe Denly bats 3 in my England team.


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