Denly, 33, had endured a lean series, failing to score 50 in 4 innings and averaging 19.4 to come under pressure for his place in the side.
Leeds: Joe Denly described his gutsy half century on Saturday to give England hope of saving the third Ashes test against Australia at Headingley as among the hardest knocks of his career.
Denly, 33, had endured a lean series, failing to reach fifty in four innings and averaging 19.4 to come under pressure for his place in the side.
England were set a daunting target of 359 runs to win the match and prevent the touring side from retaining the Ashes, and Denly came out to bat at 15-2 following the early dismissals of Rory Burns and Jason Roy.
He shared a third-wicket partnership of 126 with his captain Joe Root — the highest of the match — and England ended the day on 156-3.
“It was tough, they made you work hard and are obviously very aggressive as well,” Denly told reporters. “It’s probably some of the hardest batting I had to do, in terms of getting runs.
“It was obviously a tricky start for us, but pleased to get a partnership, get their bowlers back for third or fourth spells and at the end of the day we’re in a reasonable position.”
Denly played his first test in January having made his one-day international debut in 2009, and surviving for 155 balls was a considerable achievement after England were dismissed for 67 in their first innings.
“He knew he was playing for his place,” former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott told the BBC.
“Under that personal and state of the game pressure, he’s done well. He had some good fortune and played some wild wafts but you need that luck when you’re under such pressure.”
England are still very much up against it and their run chase, if successful, would be the second-highest in a test match at Headingley.
“With the team we have, we can win games from any position,” Denly said. “We have some dangerous players and some experienced players. Anytime Joe Root is scoring runs it puts belief in the side.”