Joe Denly is taking inspiration from teenage friend and England team-mate Moeen Ali as he attempts to complete his remarkable reinvention as an international all-rounder.
Denly was back home in Canterbury preparing for next month’s Test series in Sri Lanka – his first England call-up of any kind in more than nine years –when news of Liam Dawson’s injury broke and he was added to the limited-overs squad.
The 32-year-old touched down in Kandy on Wednesday and has an unexpected chance to press his claims in all three formats in the coming days and weeks, starting with tomorrow’s fourth ODI, when victory would seal the series 3-0.
A specialist batsman occasionally indulged as a part-time leg-spinner for the vast majority of his playing days, Denly’s productivity with ball in hand spiked this year with 57 wickets in all formats for Kent.
In the previous 13 seasons he totalled a combined 75 and his former county captain Ed Smith, now England’s national selector, was paying close attention.
“I certainly wouldn’t have thought a couple of years ago I’d be selected for England as an all-rounder,” Denly admitted.
“I’ve become a lot more confident and it’s something I really enjoy doing. It’s about trying to develop that even more now and be known as more than just a batter who bowls a bit.”
If that story sounds familiar it is because England’s most reliable spinner of recent times has a similar tale to tell.
Moeen Ali was first picked to fill the void left by Graeme Swann when he still considered himself a top-order batsman by trade, but after four years and 234 international scalps his all-round credentials are settled.
“I was talking to Mo yesterday about when we used to play England Under-19s together...we used to take the mick out of each other’s bowling,” said Denly.
“We were both batters back then. We used to roll our arms over in the nets, but I thought I was better than Mo and he thought he was better than me.
“It is funny how things change. He’s probably one of the best in the world now. He is certainly an inspiration, not just for me but for a lot of people.”
Denly’s relationship with Smith goes back even further. When he made his first-class debut in 2004 Smith was a senior player at Kent, replacing the young opener at the crease on one occasion after he bagged a first-ball duck.
This did not hinder Smith’s long-term view of his talent, though, and he spoke effusively about his “touch of class” during the Test squad announcement last month.
“I suppose it’s not what you know, but who you know,” joked Denly.
“I haven’t been in touch with him a great deal since he finished playing, but there is a bit of history there. It is nice that he thinks that highly of me.”
Denly also revealed he intended to take part in England’s traditional football warm-ups despite suffering a knee injury in a heavy tackle from team-mate Owais Shah back in 2009.
The incident led to then coach Andy Flower clamping down on the game, but, fortunately for Denly, the ban did not last.
“I’ve heard a lot about that too, a few of the lads saying I ruined their football,” he recalled.
“Thankfully it is back in now and hopefully no more injuries. I have a good scoring record with Kent so hopefully I can continue that with England.”
Danish Kaneria has finally admitted his role in a spot-fixing scandal, six years after the offence which saw Essex team-mate Mervyn Westfield imprisoned and the Pakistan spinner issued with a lifetime ban.
Westfield served half of a four-month prison sentence for accepting £6,000 from an illegal bookmaker for an offence in a game with Durham in 2009.
It was Kaneria who introduced Westfield to the bookmaker. Westfield was later banned from professional cricket for five years by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), who imposed a life ban on Kaneria.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Kaneria said: “I admit that I was guilty of the two charges brought against me by the ECB in 2012.
“I have become strong enough to make this decision because you cannot live a life with lies.
“It’s been six years. I lost my friends... respect from the fans. I lost everything.”
The 37-year-old describes the episode as “the biggest mistake of my life... I regret it from the bottom of my heart” and apologised to Westfield, his Essex team-mates, the club, Pakistan and cricket supporters around the world.
He also pleaded with the ECB and International Cricket Council for his ban to be lifted.
“I want to ask for people’s forgiveness,” he added.
“Cricket has given me so much in my life and I want to give something back.”
He added: “If the ECB and ICC and other bodies would give me a second chance I can help to educate young people in cricket, teach them that if you do wrong, you are finished, like me.”
Westfield accepted Kaneria’s apology.
“This whole chapter of spot-fixing changed my life, but I have never blamed anyone for the terrible mistake I made,” he said.
“However, opening up about my wrongdoing and telling the truth allowed me to move on.
“I hope that Danish finds peace and closure by doing this, and I wish him all the best for the future.”