England batsman Joe Denly feared his tour of New Zealand had been ended by the ankle injury which ruled him out of the Twenty20 series against the Black Caps.
Denly rolled his right ankle as he fielded on the boundary rope during the closing moments of England’s final practice session before the T20 opener in Christchurch last month.
The ligament damage he sustained left him doubtful for the Test series but, following a successful rehabilitation programme, he laid any doubts about his fitness to rest on the penultimate day of England’s final warm-up.
After England had lurched to 105 for five against New Zealand A in Whangarei, Denly led the recovery with a battling 68 from 147 balls, while there were half-centuries for Ollie Pope (88) and Jos Buttler (87no).
Having helped the tourists close on 355 for eight in response to the home side’s 320 for six declared, Denly cast his mind back to a couple of weeks ago when he worried about the possibility of an early flight home.
“I was very disappointed when it happened just before the T20 series. When I first did I was probably thinking my tour was over,” he said.
“It was pretty nasty when I did it. I think I was lucky not to do some real serious damage and it was always touch and go to get ready for this game.
“But it’s settled down nicely. There’s no discomfort. The running between the wickets and playing all the shots; it feels fine. It’s just a case of monitoring it and making sure it doesn’t swell up overnight.”
Denly revealed he has been aided in his recovery by an ice machine, adding: “It’s an amazing bit of kit. If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t have been playing. It’s taken down the swelling a lot.
“I haven’t spent much time outside the hotel room these last few weeks. It’s been a challenge. But it has to be done. You have to put in the hours.
“One thing from sitting on the sidelines does is make you hungry to get out there and put on the whites and perform.”
Playing in that Ashes series, I’ve come out of it a more confident playerJoe Denly
Denly was an ever-present in the 2-2 Ashes draw and ended the series as an opener, but he is expected to drop to three in the order with Dom Sibley set to partner Rory Burns.
Denly amassed half-centuries in each of the last three Tests against Australia, falling six runs short of a maiden international century in the series finale at The Oval.
He said: “It was disappointing not to get three figures. But I was dropped on nought and I could have had an lbw shout against me as well.
“Playing in that Ashes series, being exposed to those bowlers and being the challenge it was, I’ve come out of it a more confident player, and I certainly feel a lot more comfortable within this batting line-up now.
“It would be nice to get that first Test hundred on this trip. I’m feeling pretty good at the moment out in the middle.”