Denly looks forward

Wednesday 11th March 2009

By Charles Randall in Palmerston North

comedy actor John Cleese developed a hate for Palmerston North, where England Lions play their two international one-day games against New Zealand A on Friday and Monday.

These matches, and the farewell twenty20 at New Plymouth, should provide the right opportunity for Joe Denly (pictured) — outstanding in the shorter format for Kent last summer — to kick-start his tour.

Palmerston North hit the news two years ago when some Cleese opinions of the place were published after a month-long tour to New Zealand with a show called My Life, Times And Current Medical Problems.

Cleese wrote: "We stayed in a little motel, the weather was grotty, the theatre was a nasty shape and the audience was very strange to play to. We had a thoroughly, bloody miserable time there and we were so happy to get out. If you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick."

His remarks naturally caused a furore, and Rob Key’s Lions would be advised not mention Cleese’s name during their six days in town however bored they might feel.

Little has gone right for Denly so far on the tour. He damaged a finger and missed the first warm-up match, was bowled for a duck twice in the second game, was omitted from the first Test and got himself out for scores of 12 and seven in the second Test. A couple of dropped catches in the outfield would be best forgotten.

Denly said: "I’m a little bit disappointed with the way it’s gone, but there’s still a lot more cricket to be played, and in the one-day cricket I still feel I have a good chance to push my name forward. I’m looking forward to that and trying to forget these last couple of weeks and working hard in the nets, as I have been."

As so often on these short tours, at least one player becomes anonymous and struggles to impress, perhaps trying too much. Denly’s big chance will come at Fitzherbert Park in this arid little town where Massey University is based.

Denly is one of several Lions on this tour who see the door open for promotion to the senior England side in the one-day format. "There are more changes being made in one day cricket than to our Test side," Denly said, "and I think the way one-day cricket is going there are a lot of changes being made in the game. So there are chances for everyone in this side to push their case. It’s something I will be especially looking forward to doing."

After three weeks of playing and practising at Lincoln University, South Island’s principle farming institution, the Lions are to be based at another one at Massey-ville, the North Island equivalent two hours north of Wellington.

Picture courtesy of Getty Images