Denly wary of emulating Stokes, Buttler in South Africa ODIs

Joe Denly England

Joe Denly is wary of attempting to emulate Ben Stokes or Jos Buttler if given the nod for the first one-day international against South Africa at Cape Town.

Denly contributed an impressive 85 from 63 balls in England’s final warm-up against a South Africa Invitational XI at Paarl to all but cement his place in the middle order for the series opener at Newlands on Tuesday.

He is set to be given the chance because of the decision to rest Stokes and Buttler from the three-match series, the duo who were so instrumental in England’s rise from the abyss to world champions in the space of four years.

Both Stokes and Buttler are renowned for their ability to take bowling attacks apart while their partnership in last year’s World Cup final against New Zealand was critical to their historic triumph.

Denly, more accustomed to opening the batting in the limited-overs formats with Kent, recognises they are big shoes to fill, but he is adamant he will sink or swim by trusting his own instincts.

He said: “It’s great to be involved in such a very strong squad. Obviously there’s a few players not here but a great opportunity, if you get a chance, to go and make it count and put your hand up.

“I’m used to opening the batting in county cricket and obviously batting in the middle is a new experience.

“By no means am I going to go out and try to bat like Ben Stokes or Jos Buttler, they’re incredible players. It’s just a case of working out a method that works for me and trying to be really clear on what that is.”

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England’s first ODI since winning the World Cup is likely to see debuts handed to promising youngsters Tom Banton and Matt Parkinson as they begin the cycle towards the 2023 tournament in India.

Denly will be approaching his 37th birthday by that stage but he insists he is not looking that far ahead.

He said: “For me it’s just a case of concentrating on here and now and trying to put in performances to keep my place in the team.”

While Denly’s immediate focus is on the limited-overs formats, having also been included in England’s squad for the three Twenty20s that follow the ODI series, his place in the Test line-up is far from assured.

He was once again unspectacular in the 3-1 win over South Africa, contributing 210 runs at 30, which is identical to his career average after 14 Tests.

Denly’s inability to turn starts into anything more tangible – he has yet to reach three figures for England – has led to speculation he will be replaced at three by Jonny Bairstow for the two-Test series in Sri Lanka next month.

Denly added: “I suppose if I score runs here and find some good form then of course I think that might help. But I don’t know, that’s out of my hands.

“I think mentally I’m pretty good with where I am in Test cricket. I certainly feel comfortable at Test level, for me it’s just about a matter of time. Hopefully if I get more opportunity then those big scores will come.”

England had the day off on Sunday following back-to-back practice matches on Friday and Saturday. They will train on Monday afternoon in Cape Town ahead of the ODI series against South Africa starting 24 hours later.