Joe Denly was a weird selection, but since he was first picked, he’s done enough to stay in the team.
Denly’s given us spectacular catches and spectacular drops, but the defining feature of his Test career is an incredible ability to score barely enough runs to survive. We’re actually rather starting to enjoy it.
In the 2019 Boxing Day Test, Denly top scored in England’s first innings, making 50 after being dropped on nought.
For a while, we thought this was the Denliest innings imaginable – and taken in isolation it probably is. It wasn’t many runs. But it was more than anyone else managed. But he could have been out for a duck.
You can’t conclude anything from that. Magnificent stuff.
Immediately after the 50, he made 31, 38 and then 31 again. It’s only by considering these kinds of innings as well that you can fully appreciate his genius because these innings are every bit as inconclusive as the 50.
As circumstances change, Denly evolves. In the unlikely event he makes a Test hundred, you can bank on him following it up with a veritable barrage of 10s and 14s.
In his first 23 Test innings, Denly made just three single figure scores and zero hundreds. He doesn’t deal in extremes. He deals in 18s and 35s and 59s, doling out whichever seems most appropriate in the circumstances.
Joe Denly once made 74 in a match where someone else made a double hundred. Joe Denly has also top scored in an Ashes Test with 12.
Joe Denly isn’t here to play one-off inconclusive innings. Joe Denly is here to toy with us and play a whole inconclusive career.
Marvel at his adequacy.