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T20 ace Joe Denly eyes England recall

HUW TURBERVILL: At 32 many county cricketers will be thinking about the next career move, but Joe Denly is enjoying a renaissance after an astonishing winter

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At 32 many county cricketers will be thinking about the next career move, but Joe Denly is enjoying a renaissance after an astonishing winter.

The man who will lead Kent on Friday in the absence of Sam Billings has had an action-packed winter in exotic climes, experiencing things that he used to dream about.

In the Bangladesh Premier League, the Big Bash in Australia and the Pakistan Super League, he batted 21 times, scoring 656 runs from 545 balls with a strike-rate of 120.4. His boundary percentage was 18.2, with 70 fours and 22 sixes, and his match-win rate was 59.1 per cent. With those kind of numbers he could go on for years. He also had a superb summer for Kent last year, averaging 57 in first-class cricket.

The Cricketer has enjoyed his batting this winter – his driving, and ability to slap the seamers through midwicket off the front foot.

He seems to be batting as well as he has ever done…

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The Kent batsman in action for Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash

Some even say he could be given an England recall, after he played nine ODIs and five T20Is between 2009–10. “There are a lot of good players around, a lot of good, young players, but if I keep scoring runs in these competitions around the world then you never know,” he told The Cricketer. “I am sure there is a long list of players ahead of me, but I just need to keep performing.

“I feel pretty good. I am bit more experienced. I know my game pretty well in terms of technique and strengths. I feel pretty confident going into this year as well.”

He enjoyed a short, dream stint for the Sydney Sixers, making 53, 12, 19 not out and then 72 not out in their victory against Melbourne Stars. “It was a great experience,” he said. “It was quite a good situation to go in. They had lost six out of six. Things could only get better! It was one of those competitions that I had watched over the years, and I thought it would be amazing to play in. The opportunity to play four games was amazing and I loved every minute of it. The wickets out there suit my batting, they have a bit more pace and bounce, and it’s nice to get a few scores.”

He also made 78, 36, 51 and 79 not out for Karachi Kings in the PSL, and there was a good stint in West Indies’ Regional Super50, including an innings of 96 against the United States of America.

Denly gave up alcohol in 2016. A catalyst for this brilliance? “Yeah could be, I suppose! I gave it up for Cancer Research and the PCA Benevolent fund. That was great as I was able to raise a little bit of money…”

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Denly leaves the field after hitting an unbeaten 116 against Surrey

Kent were unlucky to miss out on promotion to Division One in 2016, of course, after Durham were demoted and Hampshire reinstated, rather than the second-placed side in the second tier going up. They were fifth last year, and so the promotion campaign begins against Durham on Friday. With Billings playing (and shining!) for Chennai Super Kings, Denly is the first Canterbury-born captain of Kent (an amazing stat considering the club’s long and illustrious history).

“I was a little anxious I suppose when asked to do it, but I am vice-captain to Sam, and hopefully I can do a good job. I want to keep everyone involved. I don’t want to be a dictator. I will try to get the best out of everyone – a real team effort. I am trying to make them feel good, and if that leads to a few wins when Sam is away, great. It is my first captaincy experience in the first-class arena… maybe I did a few games at under-12 level. 

“I am optimistic. We lost a couple of players from last season and I was a little worried about the squad, and the depth of squad we had, but since Paul Downton (director of cricket) and Ben Green (chief executive) have come in they have done a fantastic job of recruiting some high-quality players. There’s a real sense of optimism and excitement around the group.

“Matt Coles is a fine, fine player, so he is a loss for any team, but young Harry Podmore has come in and he’s very exciting. We also have the experience of Matt Henry from New Zealand, and Allan Donald as assistant coach. Thankfully he hasn’t bowled to me, but he’s not bad with the old slinger! It’s so positive having him around, and he’s great for the young bowlers.”

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