Published: 06:00, 19 September 2019
Joe Denly insists he has unfinished business in Test cricket after seeing out his maiden Ashes series with victory at The Oval.
The Kent vice-captain strengthened his grip on a spot in England’s Test team with a knock of 94 in the final meeting with Australia, falling agonisingly short of his first Test hundred after edging Peter Siddle to Steve Smith at slip.
Skipper Joe Root turned away in despair while spectators put hands to heads, channelling the agony of a country that had been rooting for Denly and willing him towards another landmark moment in his career.
For a man who admits to prioritising personal progress over international ambitions in recent years, the 33-year-old can and should reflect on his summer with enormous pride.
“As a young kid you grow up and watch Ashes series take place and I suppose dream of playing in one,” said Denly.
“I certainly wouldn’t say that over the last few years that playing for England has been one of my main goals, it’s just been about trying to find my form and reach the heights I know I can reach.
“It’s just been incredible to be a part of it.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve completed everything I’d like to complete.
“I still feel in Test cricket I’ve got a lot to prove and I feel more and more comfortable in every game I play.
“I think having taken part in this Ashes series, which is one of the biggest series going in Test cricket, will stand me in good stead moving forward as a Test player.”
On his dismissal, Denly continued: “I was pretty gutted, I’m not going to lie.
“It was very disappointing, but looking back at it I’m very proud to get England in a position to win the game.
“I think when you score runs against a bowling attack like that it’s very rewarding and certainly gives you a lot of belief going forward.
“I’m looking forward to hopefully playing a lot more Tests for England.
“It’s been an incredible summer to be part of an Ashes series and to spend a lot of time with my team-mates.”
Rewind to the third Test and Headingley awaits in apprehension as England find themselves on 358-9, needing just one run to gloss a remarkable Test victory.
Ben Stokes stands tall to a short-pitched Pat Cummins delivery before smacking a drive through the covers to seal victory with a four.
Cue ecstasy, cue euphoria, cue hysteria.
It is a moment Denly will remember forever and a moment that he will one day tell his newly-born daughter about.
Reliving his standout memory from the series, Denly said: “I spent most of the time in the urinals walking around the toilets so I didn't watch a great deal of it, but the whole emotion and atmosphere at that ground on that day and the elation when he hit those winning runs I think will live on in everyone's memory.
“It was probably one of the best Test innings and best Test matches ever to be played.”
Both on the field and behind the scenes Denly found himself part of a tight-knit group and one he will be hoping to stay with for England’s upcoming tours of New Zealand and South Africa.
“It’s a great squad to be involved in,” said Denly.
“I’ve formed some very good friendships, that’s for sure, and hopefully they can continue over the winter.
“Apart from myself, as probably one of the oldest, a lot of the lads have grown up playing against each other through age group cricket and obviously county cricket as well.
“It is genuinely a real good bunch of lads that get on with each other, enjoy each other’s company and have a real laugh.
“Don't get me wrong, when we're on the pitch it's very competitive and we're giving our all to try and do well but there's a time and a place to have a laugh and relax and we certainly do that when we have the chance.”
Asked if he felt he had cemented his spot in the Test team, a modest Denly replied: “I don’t know about that.
“It was nice to contribute for a winning cause and hopefully I’ve done myself no harm in terms of selection going forward for the winter tours. It would be great to be involved.”