England batsman Joe Denly has been sidelined after damaging a ligament in his ankle during practice. The 33-year-old picked up the injury on Thursday, prior to the first of the five T20Is against New Zealand, and will play no part in the series. The England management has not named a replacement for Denly, who is also in the squad for two Test matches, starting November 21.
Denly arrived in New Zealand after helping England to a share of the Ashes series earlier this year, scoring 94 as a makeshift opening batsman at The Oval. It has been speculated that he would be moved down to No. 3 to enable Test captain Joe Root to bat at his preferred No. 4 spot, but that plan now depends on how he pulls up after treatment and rehabilitation.
England do have other options at the top of the order. Dominic Sibley is uncapped, but also a specialist who was the only one to score more than 1000 runs in Division One of the 2019 Championship. The 24-year old has been compared to Alastair Cook for the manner in which he grinds out his runs.
Outside of keeping his Test place, Denly might have also been hoping to break into England’s first XI in T20I cricket. With a view to building for the T20 World Cup next October, they saw the five-match series against New Zealand as a testing ground for new talent, coming to the country having rested “seven players”, according to captain Eoin Morgan. With the likes of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali and Jason Roy given time off, Denly had the chance to impress the team management but will now have to wait his turn.
England won the first match of the series on Friday with another fringe batsman, James Vince, scoring a stroke-filled half-century. Denly’s injury made way for the hard-hitting Lewis Gregory to make his T20I debut, although he wasn’t required to bat or bowl. Tom Banton, whose strokeplay is reminiscent of Kevin Pietersen’s, is also available as reserve batsman with the T20I squad.