Joe Denly looked well placed to establish himself in England's ODI and T20 teams after deservedly earning an international call-up in 2009 - and many thought he might also break into the Test line-up. Those ambitions never materialised, a move from Kent to Middlesex failing to reignite his career, and in 2015 he returned to the county of his birth. Remarkably, considering that Canterbury has been the county headquarters since 1870, Denly was held by the county's website to be the first capped player to be born in the town. Many words could be spent analysing the message that carried.
A product of the Kent youth system, having been with the county since the age of 13, Denly made his debut in 2004 against Oxford University. He served notice of his considerable talent with three half centuries in three Under-19s Tests whilst touring India with England in 2005. He captained both Kent 2nd XI and the ECB Development of Excellence XI team, and scored his maiden first-class hundred against Cambridge University in 2006. Then the release of David Fulton opened up a place in the Kent top order, which Denly took with both hands during the first part of the 2007 season. His prolific form caught the eye of England's selectors and he was named in the England Lions side to face India.
The 2008 summer again kept him in the frame, especially in one-day cricket, where he enjoyed an impressive T20 tournament. But it was in 2009, after averaging 51.85 in the Friends Provident Trophy, that Denly got his international call-up. He had his moments opening the batting, making half-centuries against Ireland and Australia. But he struggled for consistency, looking particularly vulnerable to the ball coming back into him, and, like many before him, then suffered a lengthy domestic slump after being dropped from the international side.
At one stage he went nearly two years without a Championship hundred. Sensing a need to revive his career he left Kent at the end of 2011 and moved to Middlesex. But his form continued to be patchy, and in 2014 he regularly found himself left out of the side, as he averaged just 23.35 in the Championship. In three seasons at Lord's, Denly hit only two centuries in all formats of the game. After he was released, he opted to return to Kent to try and reinvigorate his career, hoping to rekindle a highly effective partnership with Rob Key, preparing for the challenge by playing domestic cricket for Brother Union in Bangladesh.
Denly's return to Kent was a satisfying one as he became one of only two Kent players to hit 1,000 Championship runs. That consistency was sadly lacking the following summer, although he did have a career-best 206 not out against Northants in May to sustain him and also won further attention in the following Championship game when he put family ahead of profession when he abandoned an innings against Derbyshire in Derby overnight to be at the birth of his first child.