Denly on the up and up
England hopeful Joe Denly is determined to end the season on a high following his successful summer with Kent.
Denly, whose form earned him a call up for England Lions earlier this summer, heads into Kent’s final LV County Championship game against Hampshire nearing the 1,000-run benchmark and the opening batsman admits he is desperate to achieve the feat for the first time.
The 22-year-old - who has amassed 884 championship runs and is also eyeing 2,000 in all competitions this year - said: “I’m looking to try finish the season strongly to try and reach that 1,000-run mark. I’ve never done it before because I just missed out last year so I'm really looking to focus and get there.”
“I’m pretty happy. I started pretty slow in the championship but one-day cricket and Twenty20 has been pretty enjoyable and I’ve been happy with my form.”
Denly’s impressive form this term, which has thrust his name forward as a possible England candidate, has been a prominent factor in what has ultimately been a fruitless campaign for the county, whose season has petered out following their disappointing defeat to Lancashire in the championship last week.
Robert Key’s side - who boast four players in the top 10 of the PCA MVP rankings - have been involved in the Twenty20 Cup and Friends Provident Trophy finals only to come out empty handed as well as narrowly missing out on promotion to Division One of the NatWest Pro40.
“We’ve had a mixed season really,” Denly concedes.
“We’ve played some pretty decent cricket throughout the year but we haven’t got anything to show for it. We’ve obviously reached a host of finals but been beaten right at the last hurdle, which has been very frustrating.
“You put in all the hard work and to be beaten right at the last hurdle puts you a bit down but you have got to rebuild and focus on the next game which we have done really well.
“The first was the Twenty20 Cup when we had to focus on the Friends Provident Trophy, and unfortunately we lost that as well but we have alot of good characters in our side.
“We were also close to getting promoted in the Pro40 but just missed out, so there is a bit of frustration but along the way we have been playing good cricket.
“Our skipper, Rob Key, is one of the strongest guys around so we are in good hands and looking to finish the season strongly.”
While Kent may have emerged out of an impressive season with no material reward, Denly himself has further cemented his reputation as one of the most promising youngsters on the county circuit.
Culminating with an appearance for England Lions against South Africa at Grace Road, the right-hander admits he savoured the experience despite not excelling during the game.
“It was great to be selected in that squad but I was disappointed not to get any runs or make an impression. I didn’t contribute much to the game to be honest but it was a good experience.”
Despite not contributing on the sole appearance, Denly has however had much to savour this season.
“A couple of knocks I’ve been really pleased with. The championship career-best 149 against Somerset was a bit mixed, obviously it was fantastic to get a career high but we lost by 20 runs and I was last man out, which wasn’t so great.
“The other innings I would single out is the 102 in the Friends Provident Trophy semi-final against Durham. It was a special occasion and getting a hundred in that against good opposition on television was quite satisfying.”
With Denly appearing on the international radar with England he admits a huge factor in his career to date has been the influence of captain and fellow opener Key.
Key, whose own time on the England periphery is well-documented, has led Kent admirably again this season and Denly was quick to single out the effect he has had during his two seasons at Kent.
“I look up to him massively and he’s been a big influence on me. He has been a great player for Kent for a number of years and to open the batting with him has been amazing.
“He is great to talk to about batting or cricket in general and he has certainly helped me to become a better player in the first two years of my career, as well as being enjoyable to watch from the other end every game.
“He does make you feel very relaxed and make you able to go about your business how you want to go about it.”
Following the conclusion of the domestic season Denly could link up again with Key on the England Lions tour to India and New Zealand this winter, an opportunity he is relishing.
“In the future I’m looking to get on the England Lions touring party to India and New Zealand and get out there and impress as well.”
“It’s a good opportunity for me so hopefully I can continue my form over the winter.”