Henry backing Denly for England success
Henry backing Denly for England success

New Zealand fast bowler Matt Henry is backing Joe Denly for England success after a great season with Kent.

Henry took 75 County Championship wickets at 15.48 across two spells with Kent this summer, helping to earn them promotion back to Division One after eight years away.

In most seasons that would be more than enough to be considered the undoubted star of the side, and certainly the Kiwi has received his fair share of credit, not least from his fellow professionals, whose votes have resulted in him being nominated for the PCA Players’ Player of the Year Award.

However, such has been the impact of Joe Denly at Canterbury this season that Henry has had to take second billing. Not that he seems to have minded, the 26-year-old needs little prompting to extol the virtues of the 32-year-old all-rounder.

“He was huge,” Henry told Sky Sports. “Not only the performances he put in on the field but what he brings to the dressing room, the calmness and the experience, it gave the team – we had a lot of young guys as well – the confidence to express themselves and that’s something that shone through.

“Then, obviously, Bilbo [Sam Billings] coming in at the back end to take over the captaincy, it was a really good growing culture and it was an environment where everyone could express themselves and grow which was probably a massive contributor to why we had the success that we did.”

Denly’s form has earned him a place in the England Test squad for the tour of Sri Lanka and Henry is adamant that his team-mate has the temperament to succeed on the international stage.

“There’s no doubt about it,” he added. “I mean he’s showed it, being there before when he was younger. How he performed this season, not only was he winning games, he was consistent throughout the whole season.

“There’s getting scores and contributing that way but he was literally putting match-winning performances in consistently. To have someone like that in your side, it makes your job pretty easy! It’s pretty special to watch really.”

Those who have watched Henry coming steaming in to dismantle top-order after top-order this summer may well express similar sentiments about him but the New Zealand international is quick to shift on the spotlight onto the team’s achievements rather than his own.

“Obviously it’s great to go over and contribute,” he said. “The personal success was great but to have something to show for it is more important.

“Getting promoted is a huge achievement and it was a goal at the start of the season so to then come back at the end of the season and it to actually eventuate was quite special.”

An added perk for any seamer playing for Kent at the moment is getting the chance to work with Allan Donald, the South African fast bowling great who, after work permit issues last year, belatedly joined the county as assistant coach this summer.

“It was brilliant, it’s great to be able to bounce your ideas off someone like AD,” Henry added. “Even just sitting down and sharing your experiences, he had a great way of inspiring people and creating a real intensity around bowling.

“Obviously that is something he is recognised for, the intensity that he brought to the crease and the aggression he showed, and that was something he wanted and he brought that ruthlessness into the bowling attack.

“We’ve got quite a young bowling attack, you’ve got the experience with Stevo [Darren Stevens] – year in, year out he’s incredible – but there are a couple of younger guys in there as well so to have that ruthlessness that we were trying to show throughout the season was really good and that transferred into having the consistency to get promoted.

“I think every bowler is a bit different. We were quite fortunate that a lot of the bowlers were hitting good rhythms and everyone was bowling well so a lot of it was about making sure we were being quite relentless in our spells.

“Throughout the season it’s quite congested, there are a lot of games, you might be a bit tired but making sure that we’re coming back and just keep coming. That was something that we did quite well throughout the summer.”

Having returned home ahead of the start of New Zealand’s domestic season, Henry is aiming to re-establish himself in the Black Caps’ side but, one way or another, he’ll be hoping to return to England next year.

“I absolutely loved my time at Kent and, yeah, I’d love to come back but obviously there’s a long time before that,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of cricket here and obviously there is a massive carrot at the end of the summer with a World Cup in England next year and that is obviously a massive goal for myself. We’ll just see how the summer pans out and go from there.”