‘I have to prove I’m more than a stop-gap!’ Joe Denly given final chance to show he can open for England in Ashes
- England only have pride to play for in St Lucia after losing first two Tests
- Denly was handed the most difficult of debuts in the Antiguan horror show
- He looks certain to again open in the final Test against West Indies this week
Joe Denly will be handed his second and probably last chance on Saturday to prove he can be more than a stop-gap and represents a realistic Ashes option at the top of the order.
Denly, handed the most difficult of debuts aged 32 in the Antiguan horror show, looks certain to open again in the final Test in St Lucia, where England will attempt to salvage some of the pride they have lost in the Caribbean.
And the Kent man knows after two failures because of poor shots in the second Test that it must surely be now or never if he is to extend his unlikely arrival at the highest level.
Joe Denly looks certain to again open for England in the final Test against West Indies
‘I hope they see a future in me opening the batting,’ said Denly before England travelled to St Lucia yesterday. ‘These two Tests are a great opportunity for me to make the position my own. There’s a lot of time before the next Test, but this is my chance to make myself an option.’
In truth, it will take something special for a man who has not opened for his county in first-class cricket for four years to do enough to ensure he will be lining up against Ireland at Lord’s in July — England’s only Test before the Ashes.
He was chosen as the spare batsmen here with the backing of national selector and his former Kent team-mate Ed Smith, but was far from a natural replacement once Keaton Jennings was jettisoned after Barbados.
The batsman was handed the most difficult of debuts at 32 in the Antiguan horror show
The selectors missed a trick in not bringing Jason Roy here because he has as good a chance as anyone of filling the biggest problem position in a batting line-up so brittle that England have plumbed new depths in two defeats here.
Yet such is the lack of options in a domestic game failing to produce Test batsmen that Denly could force his way into Ashes contention if he can bat long on what should be a good pitch.
Denly hardly did himself any favours with his two cheap dismissals in Antigua. ‘It was a tricky opening spell and it was challenging to get through the first 25-30 minutes,’ he said of his first innings in Test cricket.
‘Then Alzarri Joseph bowled me a rank long hop and it was probably too wide to go at. But I felt on that wicket I should try to latch on to any width. Unfortunately I latched on to it with the toe end of my bat. And then to get out leaving one second time was very frustrating.’
Now he knows the importance of what is anything but a dead rubber. ‘It has to be about this next game,’ added Denly.
‘Playing in the Ashes is an absolute dream and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about that a little bit. But I’ve got a real focus to make a score now and prove to those who think I’m a stop-gap, makeshift opener that I have a future in Test cricket.’
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