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Joe Denly says he is determined to force his way back up the Middlesex batting order in the second half of the season.

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Denly was dropped from the County Championship side after a poor run of form at the start of the campaign and, despite winning back a place in the team, he has been unable to reclaim his preferred no 3 slot.

The 28-year-old, who has been batting at five or six instead, admits he needs to weigh in with some sizeable scores very soon – and he hopes that will push him back into contention for his previous role.

“It was a tough period,” said Denly. “I didn’t get many runs in the pre-season friendlies and I didn’t have a great deal of confidence going into the season.

“Everyone starts the year with a clean slate and whoever scores runs early on is going to get the nod. Other people who had scored runs got selected and that was fair enough.

“Dawid Malan went up to three and he’s scored some runs. So have Eoin Morgan and Neil Dexter – so the only position left to come in was six and there’s still a lot of responsibility there, especially if you lose a couple of wickets early on.

“But it’s all about trying to score runs to get back up the order. I feel I owe it to the coaches and my team-mates to put in some big performances in the second half of the season and try and achieve that.

“I’ve almost gone back to just not thinking about things too much – it’s a case of doing the basics, watching the ball and playing it.”

As well as trying to move back up the order, Denly’s added incentive for amassing runs during the coming months is to help maintain Middlesex’s title challenge right to the end.

The former Kent batsman was part of the side that, last year, appeared to be in the running for the County Championship crown until their last few games, when they fell away and eventually finished fifth.

“We can’t look too far ahead,” added Denly. “Every team you come up against is very strong and it’s very tight up there – the top four or five are so close.

“People probably didn’t have Durham down as title contenders last year, but the run they went on in the second half of the season was incredible and once they got on a roll they couldn’t be stopped.

“We’ve got the team to do that – in my opinion we’ve got the best bowling attack in the country and we need to be consistent. There’s certainly belief in the team that we can do it.”

Denly struck an undefeated 98 to help Middlesex finally break their duck in the NatWest T20 Blast on Wednesday night as they beat Somerset by eight wickets at the Oval.

The Panthers, who had lost their first six games in the South group, restricted Somerset to 152-4 in their 20 overs before Denly and debutant Ryan Higgins (44 not out) saw them home with 17 balls to spare.

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