England batsman Joe Denly is perhaps at the end of the road in his Test journey, as it was reported that he is set to be dropped from the squad for the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka. But is that a wise move?
Joe Denly has been a reliable option at No.3. In eight matches there, he has stacked up 435 runs at an average of 33.46, including three fifties. While those numbers don’t exactly make him a shoo-in, it is surprising that Jonny Bairstow, who has been woefully out of form, has been reported as the man who will replace Denly in that position.
On the latest Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast, Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker, WCM magazine editor Jo Harman, who hosts the show, and Wisden writer James Wallace analysed the matter:
Jo Harman: There was a piece by Chris Stocks in the Guardian, reporting that Joe Denly is set to be dropped from the Sri Lanka tour, with Bairstow moving up to three. No place for Jennings, Stocks claims, and Foakes coming in. From this story, there’s no spare batsman as such. Bairstow scored a century at No.3 in Sri Lanka… has got very little since. Is it strange that we’ve gone back to Bairstow and Denly is being ditched?
James Wallace: It is strange, I think it’s very weird. The fact that Bairstow is probably going to bat three just seems slightly confusing, considering he has been told to go back and reset and all that sort of stuff. Denly has done a good job. I feel slightly sorry for him… he’s averaging slightly more than Bairstow averaged in the past year. It feels slightly harsh that he might get dropped for Bairstow to then come back.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) January 28, 2020
JH: Denly was inevitably going to be a stop-gap due to his age, and I saw the end coming, but I thought it would be when Burns was back and then you might well end up with a top three of Burns, Sibley, Crawley. For Denly to get dropped for this tour… if that is the case… it seems harsh to me. I can see why his position is up for debate, but it seems like one of those ones that we’ll look back in a few years and go, ‘They dropped Denly then? That seems a bit harsh’.
Phil Walker: We talked about this a couple of months ago and I said the South Africa tour will be crucial for Denly’s future, and I think what they saw is a player who is amenably lovable, gives absolutely everything that he’s got, is mildly surprised to have got so far along the line as a 33-, 34-year-old international cricketer, but also someone whose game is irrefutably limited at the Test level.
You saw it against the turning ball after the first Test match. South Africa’s pitches aren’t particularly conducive to spin, and yet Maharaj was able to contain Denly quite comfortably. Denly also got out to Maharaj playing a very iffy backfoot block, where he got his bat tangled in his pad. He didn’t look comfortable against the spin bowlers. In Sri Lanka, they may well open with a spinner. There certainly will be three spinners in their side. I think it’s a very ruthless and unsentimental move. I also think that it’s inevitable and the right one.
Listen to the full debate below. Also available on Spotify and the Podcast app.