Five things you may not know about England’s new opening batsman Joe Denly

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Joe Denly will make his Test debut on Thursday as England look to bounce back against the West Indies in Antigua.

The Kent batsman will replace Keaton Jennings at the top of the order as England look to reverse their batting fortunes having been on the wrong end of a thumping 381-run defeat in Barbados.

Here, we take a closer look at the 32-year-old and how he has made it to the Test arena.

A late bloomer

Although he first donned the Three Lions in the summer of 2009 – in a one-day international against Ireland – it has only really been in recent years where Denly has established himself as one of the best players on the county circuit.

After bursting onto the scene as an attractive top-order batsman at Kent, Denly slipped off the radar of the national selectors before moving to Middlesex, where his form slumped further in three lean seasons.

Since returning to Canterbury, however, he admits he has rediscovered his love for the game and developed into one of the most respected all-rounders on the circuit, despite being comfortably into his 30s, and was even recognised as the PCA Player of the Year in 2019 despite playing in Division Two.

Frustrating wait

Having made his debut against Ireland and then gone on to claim a regular spot at the top of the order in England’s 50-over side in 2009, Denly’s form deserted him as he dropped into the wilderness of county cricket.

England's batsman Joe Denly plays a shot

He found his way back into the Twenty20 side early in 2010, but after being dropped on the eve of the victorious World Cup campaign, it looked as though his international career might be over.

That was until his recent form saw him called back into the side to face Sri Lanka late last year, where he ended an agonising eight-year wait for an international cap with a man-of-the-match performance, hitting 20 with the bat and claiming four for 19 when opening up with the ball.

All-round sportsman

Not only has Denly developed into a leg-spinning all-rounder in recent years – it is a skill which played a major part in his recall to the England squad – but he is also a talented footballer, and it runs in his family.

The 32-year-old was part of the Charlton academy in his youth, while his brother Sam is manager of Hythe Town of the Isthmanian League. Despite his talents, it came back to haunt Joe in a pre-match warm-up when a bad tackle from Owais Shah caused him to twist his knee and rule him out of two ODIs against Australia.

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Twenty20 specialist

It has arguably been the rise of domestic T20 leagues around the world that have helped Denly develop into the player that is set to make his Test debut.

Having been picked up by the likes of Karachi Kings, Dhaka Dynamites and the Sydney Sixers in various leagues around the world, Denly began to make a name for himself as an all-round package in the shortest form of the game.

He peaked with a stunning Vitality Blast campaign in 2018, hitting over 400 runs and taking 20 wickets – including a hat-trick and a century in one game against Surrey – to raise his profile even further, and lead to Kolkata Knight Riders securing his services for the 2019 Indian Premier League.

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Out of position?

Despite his impressive numbers in recent years – only Daryl Mitchell and Rory Burns have more county runs over the last two seasons – Denly will be making his Test match debut in a position he has not been accustomed to for some time.

Although he burst into the Kent side as an opening batsman, in recent years he has reinvented himself in the middle order but will find himself facing the new ball once again in the absence of Keaton Jennings.

While it may not be totally new territory for Denly, it has been four years since he opened at first-class level. He remains at the top of the order against the white ball, and England will be hoping his skills are able to transfer to the longest form of the game.

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