England's Test batsmen proved that they do listen and do learn after a slow but steady start to their new era.

And they had the increasingly reliable figure of Joe Denly at number three to thank for bringing an air of calm and patience to their run making in the first Test against New Zealand.

Denly has had to strain every sinew to establish himself as a Test match batsman.

And while he must still wait for that first three figure score he is doing a decent job of shoring up a long term problem position.

His 94 at the Oval in his previous Test innings remains his high water mark so far, but after compiling 74 at the Bay Oval he has now registered four half centuries in each of his last four matches.

Denly bats during day one

The 33-year-old looks increasingly comfortable at this level.

And after receiving strong backing from National Selector Ed Smith, that faith is starting to pay dividends.

“I thought Denners played really well,” said Rory Burns after making 52. “There was a bit through the middle where his run-rate started going when he had a pop at Waggy and that was a period where I was struggling, so it kept us ticking along.

“He’ll be disappointed not to make it a really big one but he’s obviously in really good shape.

“They’ve obviously bowled very well but I feel we’ve set up the game in a way where we’re really looking at establishing ourselves in this first innings and try to get some good runs on the board.”

The 33-year-old is in impressive form
 

Denly needed to ice the ankle injury that almost put him out of the tour.

But after batting for more than four hours in the sunshine he was certainly fit enough to put into practice Joe Root’s desire for batsmen to bat long as well as big.

The tempo was certainly old fashioned in its approach as England chugged along at just over two runs per over after winning the toss and batting.

But there was the promise of more than just a solid defence, as Denly hooked the bustling, often angry, short-pitched offerings of Neil Wagner for four boundaries in his knock.

As one of three batsmen to move past fifty on the opening day along with Burns and Ben Stokes, England were a world away from the side that played almost a shot a ball in Auckland last year when they were bundled out for just 58.

And although Root himself played the poorest innings of the top order by falling cheaply to a loose shot, he will have been delighted to see Denly lead the way when it came to first innings application.

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Dom Sibley got his England career off to the perfect start with four runs from his first ball in Test cricket, but thereafter he and Burns set the tempo that Denly and then Stokes continued with.

Following the 2015 World Cup, the ODI side were told to shoot for the stars and forget about losing their wicket cheaply to see just how big they could go, and they did it to great effect before refining their style and finding a balance in time for the next tournament.

Something similar may end up happening with the Test team after they began the Chris Silverwood era with such caution that at one stage they had scored only 124 from 60 overs.

They will surely find a balance that works in time, but with a player like Stokes in the middle order and able to go through the gears at any stage, a solid platform has to be welcomed.