Joe Denly could become England’s Baron of Balls

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Joe Denly is not doing the job. But Joe Denly is doing a job.

Denly made a ball hundred in the third Test. The ball hundred is a term we coined for use in situations where you’re batting for a draw and ‘deliveries faced’ entirely supersedes ‘runs scored’ as a performance metric. A ball hundred is when you face a hundred balls.

Joe Denly faced 100 balls in Port Elizabeth and made 25 runs.

25 runs is not enough runs but 100 balls is enough balls.

Some people think Jonny Bairstow could replace Denly as England’s number three. This is interesting because Bairstow would probably make more runs and more centuries but the England team would quite possibly make fewer of each. It’s not often a selection choice breaks down like this.

Bairstow averages about 35; Denly 31. The former’s strike-rate is 55, while Denly’s is 39.

A higher strike-rate is almost always perceived to be a good thing, but in this case it probably isn’t.

Denly and Bairstow have batted in different positions in different matches and have different proportions of not outs, but even accounting for all that, the difference between them seems significant. Bairstow averages 59 balls an innings and Denly averages 80.

Let’s put it another way. Denly tends to bat for about half an hour longer than Bairstow. A proper half-hour too – a BBC no-adverts half-hour rather than a commercial broadcaster half-hour that turns out to be only 22 minutes when it winds up on Netflix a few years later.

Imagine this: An opener’s out early. Maybe soon afterwards the other one is too. Who do you want at the crease at this point? The guy who’ll make slightly more runs or the guy who’ll probably be there for half an hour longer?

A Test cricket ball lasts less than a day. It softens a pretty decent amount in 30 minutes. A bowling team’s enthusiasm also wanes when it isn’t regularly recharged with wickets.

An extra half-hour from a number three can have exponential effects. It can mean an extra half-hour or more from the number four too and a much easier situation for the number five.

England’s number five is Ben Stokes. A much easier situation for Ben Stokes is probably worth more than the four runs that separates the averages of Denly and Bairstow.

Joe Denly isn’t scoring many runs, but he’s doing a job. Joe Denly is England’s Baron of Balls.

30 comments

  1. I take your case and it’s in general a fine one, though I expect people who suggested Bairstow at three aren’t really intend him to replicate the average and strike rate he would bat with at 6-7, for the reasons you’ve outlined.

    They are looking at a strong ODI player who also has Test hundreds and expecting him to get better and more consistent. ‘Get the best players in regardless, and they’ll work it out’ is a flawed position but I don’t think it’s a completely unreasonable one.

    1. To be honest, the Bairstow comparison is only really a way of putting Denly’s performances in context.

  2. Joe Denley’s problem is that he doesn’t kick on and make a decent score often enough after getting set, not his ability to get set, which he does reasonably often, nor his run rate while getting set.

    The conveyor belt of top order batsmen who haven’t made the grade were not getting set frequently enough.

    1. He’s not an ideal Test batsmen, but his shortcomings suit this team better than the shortcomings of others.

  3. “The ball hundred is a term we coined for use in situations where you’re batting for a draw and ‘deliveries faced’ entirely supersedes ‘runs scored’ as a performance metric”

    That’s lovely if you are in fact batting for a draw. How does it apply when you come in, not long after lunch on the first day, with your side 70-0 in the first innings?

    1. A Test cricket ball lasts less than a day. It softens a pretty decent amount in 30 minutes. A bowling team’s enthusiasm also wanes when it isn’t regularly recharged with wickets.

      An extra half-hour from a number three can have exponential effects. It can mean an extra half-hour or more from the number four too and a much easier situation for the number five.

      As a wise man once said.

      1. To be honest, Ged, it may have just been that second mug of Masala Chai, but I’m not here to interpret meaning, just to present the ‘facts’.

      2. Hmm, highest opening stand since 2016 – maybe it was the Masala Chai after all.

        My inner ‘remember the 1990s’ voice is still telling me it’s all a precursor to The Mother Of All Collapses though….

  4. You take a five-for to help win a Test, get dropped for the next one, end up looking like a prat, and that’s the game.

    1. It’s a mistake anywhere, but it’s a particularly nonsensical clanger from South Africa, who have brought in a debutant medium-fast 5th seamer for Keshav Maharaj. Maharaj is actually a proven test bowler and was their best bowler in the first innings at Perth.

      1. Lollage. As far as insults go, I’ve heard worse…I mean the Ed Sheeran comparison, not the ‘Come here while I hit you, you fucking four eyed cunt’ thing.

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