Kent vice-captain Joe Denly is hoping that his fast flourishing leg-spin bowling can contribute toward a Spitfires victory over Lancashire in Thursday night’s Vitality Blast T20 quarter final in Canterbury, writes Mark Pennell of the ECB Reporters Network.
The two sides last met at this stage of the 2015 Twenty20 campaign when Lancashire moved through to finals day having lost less wickets in a dramatic tied game.
Having learned from that chastening experience, Kent have since garnered a reputation for winning in tight finishes, a trait that Denly believes will stand them in good stead this week in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Denly, who took 19 wickets during Kent’s successful south group qualifying campaign also believes that his bowling can help him to extend his leadership of the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s most valuable player of the season award.
The 32-year-old top-order batsman and wrist-spinner has led the PCA rankings for much of the campaign after taking runs and wickets across the formats. And, he believes that a strong end to his personal campaign can help contribute toward winning silverware for Kent.
Though he first bowled for his home-town club, Whitstable, as a youth, Denly’s dipping spinners were undoubtedly an under-utilised resource under previous Kent skippers Rob Key and Sam Northeast. But, with the backing of Sam Billings, the self-taught Denly has fast become Kent’s leading white ball wicket-taker.
“I’ve always enjoyed having a bowl in the nets but, with Sam Billings backing me and using me a lot more in the games nowadays, it’s important for me to try and keep on improving,” explained Denly.
“Being a leg-spinner there are a lot of variations to pick up and work on, so it’s vital to keep working on these things. Going away to play Twenty20 in the winters has obviously helped, being in and around world-class spinners and watching how they go about their work has been a bonus.”
Denly added: “Of course, I can always have a chat with Min Patel or ‘Tredders’ [James Tredwell], but bowling for me is a bit like my batting, in that I prefer to work things out for myself. No one has ever really taught me leg-spin, it’s something I tried as a young lad, I enjoyed it and kept it going over the years.
“I played with Shahid Afridi last winter and had a few chats with him about field settings, his bowling variations and I tried to take the things out of that which would work best for me.
“I’ve always said I could do a job with the ball for Kent, but previous captains never seemed to believe that. ‘Keysy’ didn’t rate me when I was a bit younger because I didn’t have a decent googly, so he didn’t bother calling me up to bowl.”