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Comeback star Joe Denly rates England’s chances ‘very highly’

Joe Denly
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

England batsman Joe Denly, who made a vital half-century to keep his team’s hopes alive in the third Ashes Test, believes that the hosts can pull off a spectacular victory to draw level in the series at Headingley.

Australia set a hefty target of 359 for the hosts on day three in Leeds, with Marnus Labuschagne leading their batting effort with an industrious 80. In reply, Joe Root (75*) and Denly (50) dug in for England, adding 126 crucial runs for the third wicket.

While Denly lost his wicket in the final session of play, the hosts ended the day on a promising 156-3, setting the Test up for an exciting finish. “With the team we have, we can win games from any position,” Denly said afterwards.

“There are not too many demons in the pitch – we are in a very good position. There is a lot of belief in that changing room and excitement going into tomorrow.”

England could perhaps seek inspiration from two years ago, when they were at the wrong side of a similar chase at Headingley. On that occasion, Jason Holder’s West Indies chased down 322, on the back of Shai Hope’s second century of the match. Root on Sunday will have a similar role to play.

“We have some dangerous players and some experienced players,” Denly said. “Anytime Root is scoring runs, it puts belief in the side. I rate our chances very highly.”

In terms of his individual performance, Denly overcame ghosts of his recent past to script a special return to form. The 33-year-old had been left out of England’s World Cup 2019 squad. He had also gone seven innings without a Test half-century.

However, the right-hander stuck in when Australia were on top of the game, and pulled England out of a hole alongside his skipper. “It was tough, they made you work hard and are obviously very aggressive as well. It’s probably some of the hardest batting I had to do, in terms of getting runs,” he said.

“It was obviously a tricky start for us, but pleased to get a partnership, get their bowlers back for third or fourth spells, and at the end of the day, we’re in a reasonable position.”

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