After missing the three-match Twenty20 International series because of an injured ankle, England batsman Joe Denly is keen on scoring his first hundred in the longest format in the New Zealand Test series.
Just over two weeks ago, Denly had damaged his ankle ligament when he tripped on the boundary rope while training ahead of the T20I series. Initial prognosis suggested that the batsman would fail to recover in time for the Test series, which begins on Thursday, 21 November.
However, Denly returned to the side with a bang, scoring an assured half-century against New Zealand A in the warm-up game in Whangarei, demonstrating his fitness and desire to seal his place in England's Test top order.
"I was very disappointed when [I got injured] just before the T20 series," Denly said. "When I first did it I was probably thinking my tour was over. It was pretty nasty, a tough one to take, and it always touch and go to get ready for this game [against New Zealand A]."
"It's settled down nicely. There's no discomfort. The running between the wickets and playing all the shots feels fine. It's just a case of monitoring it and making sure it doesn't swell up," said Denly, who smashed seven fours and three sixes in his knock of 68.
Denly made his Test debut against West Indies in January this year and has already scored four fifties in eight matches for England. He came close to scoring a century in the second innings of the final Ashes Test at the Oval in September but fell six runs short.
It would be nice to get that first Test hundred on this trip. I'm feeling pretty good out in the middle.
The 33-year-old, who drew confidence from that performance during the Ashes, is now looking forward to bettering that score in New Zealand.
"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," he said. "Playing in the Ashes, being exposed to those bowlers, 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 out in the middle."
England will play the first of two Tests in Mount Manganui starting from 21 November.