Joe Denly is winning his battle to be fit for the upcoming Tests in New Zealand after a return to training following an ankle injury.
The 33-year-old, who had been expected to drop down from opener to No 3 as part a rejigged top order in the longer format, saw his tour plunged into doubt after straining ligaments before the current T20 series.
But Denly is now out of the protective boot on his right ankle and trained in the run-up to Friday’s fourth international, taking part in some light jogging before batting in the lightning fast nets at Nelson Park in Napier.
It means Jonny Bairstow will likely be forced to wait for his Test return, having been dropped for the two-match series that begins in Mount Maunganui on 21 November but placed on standby should Denly’s recovery have taken longer.
England’s red-ball players have arrived in Whangarei to begin preparations for the series – one that sits outside the World Test Championship points system – and play two- and three-day warm-up matches starting next Tuesday and Friday respectively.
Joining this second group in New Zealand is Darren Gough, the former England quick who will spend the next two weeks as a consultant to the seamers. Former batsman Graham Thorpe is also working with the players as a batting coach.
With Paul Collingwood about to sign a full-time contract as an assistant coach, it leaves the fast bowling role as the one remaining vacancy in Chris Silverwood’s backroom staff. Shane Bond, currently with the New Zealand camp for a short spell, performed this role for England during the first two Tests of the 2017-18 Ashes and built a strong rapport with captain Joe Root.
However while the 44-year-old didn’t rule himself out, he also summed up England’s difficulty in finding a suitable candidate: his freelance T20 work at Mumbai Indians and Sydney Thunder – and an upcoming assistant position with Southern Brave in The Hundred – is potentially more lucrative and less time-consuming than international cricket.
Bond said: “The biggest challenge of the international game is the grind of a coach. Look at England in particular: 300 days a year on the road, it’s challenging on family life. Whether it’s coaches or players, good management of people is paramount.”
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