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WET HUSSAIN: Test cricket can be ruthless - Joe Denly will have to change, or the ax will fall
If you just asked Joe Denly for the first time on Thursday and saw him being played by Shannon Gabriel, you might have thought, "Fair enough, this is a good ball."
But the problem for Denly is that he's got history with the NRP back. And if the international bowlers these days feel a weakness, there really is no place to hide.
In the period before video analysis, a batsman had maybe two or three tests before the opposition worked them out where bowl to him. Well, the West Indies will bet the day before the game, watch the footage and come to an obvious conclusion: “Right, Denly. Let it suffocate again from the outside. '
Joe Denly has to sign up for England, otherwise the 34 year old could soon be dropped
Denly has one major weakness that is with bullets that nip back and felt by bowlers
His problem is clearly a technical one. He plants his front foot on the middle and off butt, but he doesn't move it again. And since his feet are stuck, he's playing with the ball with his hands. When the ball comes back into the off-side, it leaves a gap between the bat and pad. And that's what any international bowler is worth trying to capitalize on.
At the county level a glitch like that doesn't matter so much because the throwers might only be able to generate a threatening delivery once you get one over. Rob Schlüssel, the Captain Denly at Kent, says it always has a weak point. But in test cricket, that goes over up to three or four times.
It's hard to say why Denly got into this habit, but it is perhaps a feature of modern practice routines that is a bit robotic versus all those who use snappeas and bowling machines. You can almost drill yourself in the wrong position instead of learning to see the ball and react to it.
Denly has a technical problem - his feet are stuck and he is playing the ball with his hands
Whatever the reason, Denly have way of going and figuring out how to deal with the problem. And he has to do it quickly. He's 34, so time isn't on his side, and Joe Root is back for the second test next week.
And while I still think Denly is in the pecking order ahead of Zak Crawley, it could get uncomfortable for him if he isn't in the second innings, and Crawley gets a score.
It's not easy to correct summer technical problems because at the moment a batsman can't go back to county cricket and work on his game. But Denly has to find a way, even if it means moving on over his stumps on the off side.
Although Denly is in the pecking order ahead of Zak Crawley, questions could change quickly
Of course, when you solve one problem, another can arise. By moving over, he can lessen the risk of bowled but could bring lbw into play. Still, it would give him a second line of defense.
Perhaps he can be the example of his captain in this game. Ben Stokes has clearly tinkered with his technique even though he had the year of his life in 2019. He opened up his stance and did a big trigger movement over his stumps towards the off side. I'm not sure why he did it, but it also shows when you're in shape you can always improve your alignment.
Denly has to believe that a tweak can be made even while he accepts the risks that have come with him
Another example is Virat Kohli. When he came to England around in 2014, he stopped nicking Jimmy Anderson. Two summers ago, he stood further outside his crease and caught the ball before he had a chance to swing how much. The result was that superb century at Edgbaston.
Denly has to believe that a tweak can be made even while he accepts the risks that have come with him.
After training the brain, which has been dull for years where its off, a change of guard is to confuse it, play it over the balls and leave it. But the reality is that if he doesn't adapt quickly, the best bowlers are still looking for him.
And, like I mentioned the other day, it's not just about getting the root back in the page. Dan Lawrence is itching for a crack, too.
Test cricket can be an unscrupulous business. Denly has to adapt - and he has to adapt now.
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