Denly happy to make way as Root returns to number three for Ashes opener
Joe Denly had no qualms when Joe Root pulled rank on him to claim the number-three spot in England’s Ashes line-up and expects the first Test at Edgbaston to be the pinnacle of his career.
Captain Root approached head coach Trevor Bayliss after last week’s Ireland Test and volunteered to reclaim the key position.
Bayliss has long been keen for Root to accept the responsibility and he has now shelved his concerns in a bid to bolster a top order that has too often looked light on both runs and experience.
As a result, Denly will move down a place in Thursday’s series opener against Australia, his third different slot in four appearances at the highest level.
Far from feeling slighted, the 33-year-old was merely happy to hear he would be part of the team that will lead England’s battle to reclaim the urn.
“Rooty rang me the other day and told me he wanted to bat number three and wanted me to go four. It was as simple as that,” he said.
“He just wants to get involved in the game, get up there and out in the middle, and hopefully get a lot of runs. I don’t think there’s any more to it than that.
“I wasn’t too fussed really where I was batting, it’s just great to be in that XI. I’ve batted at four before when playing for Kent and throughout my career, so it wasn’t really a big issue, I’m just happy to be playing.
“I’m really excited to get going in what will probably be the highlight of my career.”
Taking the field against Australia is sure to be a moment of huge significance for Denly, who is experiencing a second chance at international level that once appeared highly unlikely.
His first brief taste came a decade ago as a limited-overs specialist and for most of the intervening period he was a long shot to return to England colours.
An upturn in form over the past couple of years, coupled with the faith of national selector Ed Smith – his former team-mate at Kent – has changed the story.
“Everyone from a young age dreams of playing in an Ashes series and to finally get that chance, being quite an old campaigner, I’m certainly excited and up for the challenge,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that the Australian bowling line-up is one of the best in the world. They have all bases covered really and, as a top-order batter, that is where you want to be: testing yourself against the best.
“It took me a while to get back to any kind of form when I got dropped all those years ago. I went missing for two or three years, with all my focus on trying to get back in the England side.
“In recent years I’ve enjoyed my cricket a lot more. Did I see myself playing in Ashes series? Probably not, but this week is going to be a very proud moment and a very special occasion for me and my family.”
Denly’s appreciation of the chance in front him is understandable, particularly given how close he came to making England’s triumphant World Cup squad.
He was named in the provisional 15 but replaced at the last minute by Liam Dawson, who did not play a game.
“I think it was the right decision,” he said. “I thought it might happen and it was a great opportunity for me to go back and play some red-ball cricket with Kent and get some good form going into this series.
“That was a bit of a blessing in disguise, being able to spend some time out in the middle, get a few big scores and go into this series feeling confident.”