Crawley cap ceremony ‘proudest moment’ for Kent’s Denly

PUBLISHED: 09:16 30 April 2020 | UPDATED: 09:16 30 April 2020

Kent's Zak Crawley in batting action

Kent's Zak Crawley in batting action

PA Wire/PA Images

Kent Spitfires star Joe Denly has described presenting county team-mate Zak Crawley with his maiden England Test cap as one of the proudest moments of his cricket career.

Crawley, Kent’s 22-year-old opening batsman, was selected for his England debut against New Zealand at the Seddon Park ground in Hamilton back in December, when his fellow tourist and England colleague, Denly, was on hand to present Crawley’s numbered Three Lions cap – England #695.

“It was one of the proudest moments of my career,” said Canterbury-born Denly.

“I haven’t played a lot for Kent with Zak, but having got to know him these past few years, I’ve come to know that he’s a very fine young man as well as a very fine cricketer.

“Getting presented with your Test cap is one of the most special days of your life. I was lucky enough to have Michael Atherton give me mine, and he’s a legend of the game.

“The way it’s gone in recent years is that they’ve asked past players to make these awards, but Joe Root came to see me the day before the Test and asked if I’d like to present Zak’s.

“I said ‘yes’ straight away, but I was incredibly nervous about actually doing it. I’m not going to lie, I probably had a more sleepless night then, than I did before my own Test debut.

“I wanted to get it right for Zak, I wanted to make it special for him and to make his family proud. So, in those terms, it was probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my career. It was very special.”

Responding to a question posed during Kent’s early April Spitfire Session [the county’s fortnightly online debate with members], Denly, when asked about his favoured international format, said he regards Test cricket as the “ultimate dream”.

With 14 Test caps to his name, Denly explained: “I’ve been lucky enough to win a few Test caps now and at my age, I turned 34 in March, I need to give myself the best opportunity to play in every Test I can from here on.

“The reality is, if I was to drop out of that Test team now and someone else came in and did well, that would probably be the end of my Test career. I guess there is no definitive answer to the question though, so best I leave it to the selectors.”

As for the delayed start to the domestic campaign due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Denly said: “I was really looking forward to getting back and being amongst the fellas because it was already feeling like a long time since I’d been involved with the boys at Kent.

“I’ve had a very enjoyable 18 months with the England side, but there’s no place like home and now it feels like I’ve been away from The Spitfire Ground for a very, very long time. I was really excited about getting back with the Kent lads and being amongst it all, but it wasn’t to be.”

However, Denly admits that he is trying to see the unforeseen break in the hectic international schedule as something of an unexpected bonus, adding: “It has given us time to rest and refresh if you like. I suppose that when you’re away touring all over the world we certainly miss home and our families, but being in this isolation now, makes me miss tour life a bit . . . but you can’t have it both ways. I just hope we can get back to action sooner, rather than later.”

Denly, like all cricketers, realises that the summer of 2020 will transpire to be something of a moveable feast, with shortened competitions played at unusual times of year –with a shortened T20 event possibly played last of all.

Yet the stylish right-hander believes his fellow professionals will adapt quickly to the changes in schedule. He said: “Chopping and changing formats is one of the challenges we’ve had to learn to deal with in recent seasons and of course T20 cricket is all about entertainment and attracting people to the grounds.

“As a player, you adapt your training methods to what’s in front of you, at least I certainly do. So I’m always planning ahead in terms of what bowlers you’ll be facing and coming up with different plans to score. It’s all about being well prepared through video analysis and team meetings.

“For T20 for instance, I’d concentrate on my boundary hitting, ‘range hitting’ as we call it, when we practise out in the middle, on the square, trying to get an idea of how hard we need to hit the ball to clear the ropes and learn the pockets that are safest. Also, about finding the gaps where you can pick up the twos and threes that keep the board ticking. It’s not a case of just turning up and trying to hit every ball for six, there’s a lot of strategy that goes into the method.

“You try and put yourself in run-chase scenarios in practise to mimic the pressure you will face come the actual games. It all helps to try and perform to your best once the games do come along.

“When T20 first started you were probably happy with a par score up around 150, but teams are now getting 200 more regularly, which just shows how the game has evolved and how important it is for us guys to clear the ropes. That’s why we’re lifting heavier weights in the gym these days!”

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