Jason Roy’s blazing 69 had given England an upper hand against Sri Lanka in the one-off Twenty20 International. However, it was the stunning 4/19 from Joe Denly, returning to the England side after nine years that became the major talking point in the team’s 30-run win at the R Premadasa stadium on Saturday.
Denly, who last played for England in 2009, bowled his legbreaks to perfection and chipped with a vital 20 off 17 balls to continue the team’s dominant show in Sri Lanka.
After being inserted into bat by Sri Lanka, England blazed away with Roy and Jos Buttler providing them with a blazing start. However, Sri Lanka pegged the visitors back with regular wickets but Roy continued to blaze away to his fourth fifty. His aggression resulted in England maintaining a run-rate of over 10 but his dismissal threatened in loss of momentum.
However, some lusty hits from Ben Stokes (26), Moeen Ali (27) and Denly helped England reach 187/8. Having contributed with the bat, Denly proceeded to weave his magic by dismissing Niroshan Dickwella (3) and Kusal Mendis (1).
Sri Lanka struggled at 77/5 but they still had veteran Thisara Perera, who blasted six sixes in his aggressive fifty to provide some anxious moments to Eoin Morgan’s team. Thisara lacked support from the other end and with the asking rate mounting, Sri Lanka were forced to play catch-up and they ended up losing the match by 30 runs. Fittingly, Denly was named the Man of the Match.
Denly’s last competitive game was in 2009 and was dropped just on the eve of the 2010 T20 World Cup held in the West Indies. However, some magnificent all-round performances for his County side Kent in the last two seasons across all formats grabbed the eye of the England selectors.
After getting selected for the tour to Sri Lanka, Denly remarked in an interview to The Guardian that he went missing for a few years. “Performances and my love of the game dropped quite a bit. It got to a point where I had to start enjoying it again because my career was almost fading away. Now I’m at ease with my game,” Denly said.
The action now shifts to the Test series, with the first match to be played on November 6 at the Galle International stadium. This game will mark the farewell of Sri Lanka legend Rangana Herath who will retire from international cricket after the end of the Test.