Well, well, well. What a remarkable 11 days it’s been since your last hefty helping of ‘Canterbury Tales.’ It may be a Tuesday, but we are back and I’m not going to spare any gloating at all!

If this is going to irritate you, perhaps you were one of the many toxic Joe Denly-doubters? Then please do feel free to leave and check out some of the other not-so-Denly-obsessed Howzat For A Laugh content, for you’re not going to like the next 1184 words very much at all!

When We Last Spoke…

When we last spoke on 8 February, the third Test of England’s ill-fated Windies Tour, but one that will live long in the memory of Kent fans, had yet to begin. And we weren’t even sure whether or not the great man was going to be involved.

The announcement of Keaton Jennings making the squad, along with Joe Denly for that matter, the day before didn’t feel me with optimism. Was the dire Jennings going to replace my Canterbury Prince?

No, of course not! The selectors and Joe Root do have one jot of sense at least and gave Denly a deserved second chance for the dead-rubber. Was his performance in the first Test, his Test debut, that bad anyway? No, it wasn’t. Even if it had been, he deserved a second chance. And he got one, batting in the more familiar role of three with Jennings coming in to take his place in the opening pair alongside Rory Burns. On the first morning, England lost yet another toss and were put into bat first.

It’s at this point, before we go through the motions of the superb third Test, that I’ll point you to a prediction I made in the last edition of this column when discussing Denly’s first Test. And then we’ll bask in the glory of Denly’s second-ever Test appearance!

“Yes, he would have felt he could have done a lot better, but there were some bright sparks. Just you wait, he will prove all of you wrong and rise, winning the consolation Test and the 2019 Ashes for the mighty Three Lions [roars defiantly at the laptop screen].”

Teaser: the first part of that prediction is now complete!

First The Worst

However, we would have to wait until the second innings in St Lucia for Denly to prove me right and much of the cricketing world wrong as the 32-year-old would impress in the first. But still not quite enough for the horrid cynics.

Just 30 runs were on the board when Denly was thrust into the action after Jennings had done ‘a Jennings’ in normal fashion. He would rescue England from an early collapse, though still falling at 20, caught LBW by a delivery from the ever-grumpy Shannon Gabriel.

There were some nice strokes in Denly’s highest Test score at that stage, however, in spite of leading England to 69-1 and registering the fourth-highest score in another unconvincing innings, of 277. He still had it all to do in the second innings to prove a point and put him seriously into the Ashes running.

As it turned out, England’s score was made to look impressive by Windies failing to show up for their first innings and being skittled out for 154. Partly thanks to the tremendous five-wicket haul of the returning Mark Wood. The only disappointment was no overs for Denly to bowl.

Second The Best

With a handsome lead of 121 and in a very commanding position, England came back out at the end of Day Two for their second innings. With Burns and Jennings surviving, Denly would have one more sleep until he got another chance.

And he really wouldn’t have to wait for long at all with Burns rounding off a very poor tour as England’s number one by getting out to the first ball of the day for just 10.

Just like at the start of every innings in his Test career so far, Denly strode to the crease at a time when both himself and his team were under huge pressure. As ever, he was coolness personified. And the rest, as they say, is history…

Oh, The Glory!

Oh the glory, oh the joy! It was indescribable as Denly became the first Kent player since Rob Key to score a fifty for England in a Test. Not only reaching fifty, but adding 19 before succumbing to Gabriel once more.

Was I disappointed that he couldn’t reach a landmark ton? A little, yes. Although the joy of him registering the second top score of the innings and his best score in a Test match by 49 runs outweighed it by so much.

The knock was a pivotal one. Not just for Denly but for the team as a whole as they went on to be further inspired by captain Root’s century, declaring on 361-5. And eventually, winning the third Test by a whopping 232 runs and finishing the series with some pride.

I could sit here all day and pepper you all with stats and sweet nothings about Denly’s innings and I would if it wasn’t for both time and word limits. So we’ll just have a few.

How’s Stat?

That glorious knock featured a highly-impressive 11 4s, more than Root managed in his 122. And was achieved in a quick 163 balls and 99 minutes. In the same number of deliveries, the inferior Jennings could only muster up 23. Finally, Denly becomes the first Canterbury-native to score a Test fifty for England. Simply wonderful and what a way to end the tour that carried your Test debut!

And hell, my Joe was even given three overs as England wore down Windies to win late on the fourth day. So very nearly dismissing Roston Chase for the winning wicket and to prevent his hundred. That innings would also bring a first Test run-out for the true all-rounder, getting Hetmeyer for 19 with a stunning throw from the boundary to Jonny Bairstow.

Well done, Joe. I love you always and forever!

A Word To The Wise

I know you love your cricket satire, dear readers, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to get serious for a second here before we say goodbye. I apologise, though feel it’s necessary.

We can’t ignore an incident that occurred while Denly was at the crease with his skipper Root during that sublime second-innings 69. I am, of course, referring to the abhorrent “do you like boys?” Comment from Windies bowler Gabriel towards the England captain.

Myself and everyone here at HFAL condemns any kind of homophobia or discrimination and it’s especially disappointing to see it rear its ugly head in such high-profile circumstances in the game we all love.

All we can do is praise the calm, measured, significant and frankly brave response of Root and hope that Gabriel rues his comments. His four-day ODI ban being an absolute joke, but that’s another matter. The way Root reacted set a real example. He truly is our captain, leader, legend!

Until Next Time…

As much as I would love to go on about my beloved Denly all day and all night, I can’t unfortunately and it’s now time to say goodbye. However, before we do, we must wish Joe luck in England’s ODIs against the Windies, starting tomorrow.

We’ll be going into them in more detail, as well as the T20 action and the rest of the latest news from the beautiful county of Kent, when we return in our usual ‘Canterbury Tales’ slot on Friday. See you then!

Until next time…