Joe Denly has been handed an unexpected chance to resume his England one-day career more than nine years after his last cap following an injury to Liam Dawson.
Denly’s call-up cames after slow left-armer Dawson was ruled out of the remaining three ODI’s against Sri Lanka as well as a stand-alone Twenty20.
He sustained a right side strain while helping England to a 1-0 lead in Dambulla on Saturday and will fly home rather than continue pressing his case for a place at next summer’s World Cup.
While Dawson muses on the misfortune of breaking down on one of the few trips where England countenance playing three spinners, the resurgent Denly is preparing to seize an unlikely opportunity having made the last of his nine 50-over appearances in October 2009.
The 32-year-old was already due to join the tour for the three-match Test series, his first, but will now arrive in Kandy tomorrow morning, a matter of hours before the third match of the series.
When he last wore the Three Lions, Denly was a specialist top-order batsman whose wrist-spin was considered strictly part-time – although his solitary over on the international stage did yield the wicket of South Africa captain Graeme Smith.
Yet his bowling has come on to such an extent, with 57 wickets in all formats for Kent last summer, that he has been asked to fill Dawson’s boots.
The Hampshire man’s injury was not the only unwelcome news at nets yesterday, with a cobra discovered by groundstaff lurking near the pavilion at the picturesque Pallekele Stadium.
If that went largely unnoticed by the squad as they went about their drills, selector James Taylor the only one among the touring party to witness the serpent’s safe collection in a sack, their team-mate’s bad news did not.
“It’s a bit of a shame for Daws. The big thing about him is that he’s a brilliant team man,” said all-rounder Chris Woakes.
“He’s been in and out for quite a while and hasn’t had many opportunities to play.
“Now, when he looks like he is going to be a shoo-in for that third spinner’s role, he unfortunately gets a bit of a niggle. He’ll be as frustrated as anyone.
“Hopefully, it is not too bad and he can play a part moving forward. He deserves his opportunities.”
Woakes is also mindful about his own fitness ahead of a huge year that sees England host not only the World Cup, but an Ashes series.
The Warwickshire man struggled with injuries throughout the domestic season, missing the entire white-ball summer, and has decided against seeking a lucrative deal in Australia’s Big Bash League after the Sri Lanka trip.
“I had a few discussions, but I’m having December off,” he said.
“The ECB were open to guys getting cricket. These franchise tournaments can make you a hell of a better cricketer. With the year ahead and the year I’ve had with the odd niggle it’s not going to be for me.”
Woakes has praised England’s precision after their one-day bowling attack racked up more than 10,000 deliveries without conceding a front-foot no-ball.
Cricket statistician Mazher Arshad calculated that Eoin Morgan’s side passed the remarkable landmark during their victory over Sri Lanka on Saturday, with Liam Plunkett the last man to transgress in Cuttack 40 games ago.
Overstepping can be a costly error at the highest level, adding a run to the total, an extra delivery to the innings and a free-hit from the next ball. In a world of marginal gains, England’s eradication of the habit is a valuable one.
Woakes, the most experienced seamer in the limited-over set-up, said: “It’s great to hear, over 10,000 balls is a hell of a lot of deliveries.
“The bowling unit who’ve bowled over that time know how dangerous they can be. They can lose you games of cricket.”
“One no-ball at a crucial part of the game can cost you seven runs or more.”
Woakes is now one of England’s 10 highest one-day wicket-takers following his three wickets against Sri Lanka in Dambulla.