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ILT20: England’s Joe Denly looking at Sharjah Warriors stint as springboard for renewed success

 ILT20: England’s Joe Denly looking at Sharjah Warriors stint as springboard for renewed success

  • ·       England all-rounder reflects on England career prospects on the sidelines of a school visit with UAE’s Alishan Sharafu
  • ·       ‘He knows how to win’, says coach Paul Farbrace as he hails Denly’s experience 

ILT20: England’s Joe Denly looking at Sharjah Warriors stint as springboard for renewed success

England’s Joe Denly is looking at Sharjah Warriors as a steppingstone to another spectacular chapter in an international career pockmarked by a long absence when the inaugural International League Twenty20 (ILT20) begins in the UAE from January 13.

The highly effective yet often underrated all-rounder may be turning 37 this March but he is not ready yet to give up on an England call-up as he prepares to reinvent himself as a pinch-hitter in the game’s shortest format to fit into the Sharjah team’s needs under compatriots coach Paul Farbrace and captain Moeen Ali.

This despite having played most of his cricket in an England shirt as a top-order batsman. “I can also play in the middle if the team needs it even though I have almost always batted in the top three,” Denly said on the sidelines of a visit to The Indian International School in Dubai Silicon Oasis on Wednesday with his Sharjah Warriors teammate Alishan Sharafu ahead of their opening match on January 14.

“It is important to train with a purpose and to match that scenario with the team. I am trying to train to bat in the middle order, especially at number six, trying to develop my game and hit more boundaries.” Denly last played for England in a T20I in September 2020 before eventually enduring an absence that has now lasted a little over two years.

Prior to that he went missing from the England setup for eight years before engineering a remarkable renaissance in 2018 by winning a recall for England's Test tour of Sri Lanka in 2018 on the back of a PCA Players' Player of the Year award and topping the Most Valuable Player rankings.

Will 2023 see him rise again like a phoenix from the deserts of Sharjah? “You can never really rule [an England recall] out,” he said in between signing autographs and hitting a one-handed six over deep extra cover in an impromptu two-over match with Sharafu during the school visit. “The white-ball team of England is doing well, which is nice to see. But if the opportunity comes with England, I will be happy to take it just as I am privileged to be playing here for the Sharjah franchise.”

It was all in a day’s work for the man from Kent later same evening as he hit a quickfire cameo to help the Warriors scale down a target of 182 with 2.2 overs to spare in a practice match against Dubai Capitals later in the evening.

Earlier, he ran out danger man Robin Uthappa with a stinging throw to the wicketkeeper from fine leg to put the spotlight back on his fitness. “I am in a good space mentally. As you grow older, you get more experienced and you learn to handle the lows with the highs. I feel fresh and good actually. I am fighting fit just like the young players.

“The more you think about playing for England, that’s what can put yourself under pressure. I haven’t played since the end of the county season so I am raring to go here with Sharjah Warriors, put up some match-winning performances and not focus too much ahead. What you can control is what you can do in your space,” said the all-rounder, who happened to become the first player in the world to score a century and then claim a hat-trick in a T20 in 2018 for Kent.

The format-versatile top-order batsman with a more than handy leg spin has played 15 Tests, 16 ODIs and 13 T20 internationals.

He is also flexible about the space he gets in the team order with Sharjah Warriors in ILT20. “The good thing about the ILT20 is you get to train and learn new things even at the ripe age of 36. I am also trying to bowl a lot more in the nets and hopefully can make a difference when called upon,” Denly added.

Farbrace acknowledges the higher the batsman goes into bat, the better it is for the player, but he would be dipping into Denly’s experience and versatility for a push from the middle order. “With the experience he brings to the table, he knows how to win; he is expecting to win games. He did a good job as captain of Kent last season and took them to the final of the 50-over competition in England. He can bat anywhere between 1 and 6 positions,” Farbrace said.

“Likewise, he can bowl in the powerplay as well as in the middle overs. He can get the ball to drift in a bit when the ball is new. And he is an excellent fielder too as you saw with that brilliant runout. He is always calm and a quiet guy but he lets his game talk.”

Sharjah Warriors face MI Emirates away at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday in their opening ILT20 fixture before taking them on again on January 17 in their first home game.

Credit – Sharjah Warriors media team

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