Cricket: Coach backing rookie Bennett

By David Leggat

New Zealand bowling coach Allan Donald has gone in to bat for beleaguered young fast-medium bowler Hamish Bennett after his pasting at the hands of Australia.

The lively 23-year-old from Timaru took a shellacking in Australia's seven-wicket win at Nagpur last week and it will be a major surprise if he's sighted in New Zealand's third group A game against Zimbabwe in Ahmedabad on Friday night.

The bustling Bennett conceded 63 in his seven overs. The two wickets of openers Brad Haddin and Shane Watson - one caught deep on the leg side, the other playing a tired shot at a wide ball and dragging it on to his stumps - was small consolation.

Things went wrong from his second over, the eighth of the innings, which cost 19, including five wides.

His second block of four overs went for 26 before 15 came off his seventh, the 33rd of the innings, just before the end. Three short balls sailed to the fence in that over.

Bennett bowled too short, or was wide on both sides of the stumps and couldn't find the right length or his rhythm.

Former South African speed ace Donald likes Bennett's never-say-die attitude.

The last thing he wants is Bennett to be reduced to a stock, line and length role.

"He's going to leak a few runs, but what we can't do is for him to slip into a holding or non-aggressive role," Donald said yesterday.

"He's a very young guy and it's my job to remind him what his job is."

Donald liked that Bennett didn't bend the knee in the face of Australia's assault in Nagpur.

"He never backed off, he kept coming and that's where we see him going in the future.

"He's going to learn a lot about playing against top-class opposition in this World Cup."

Expect senior seamer Kyle Mills to return in Bennett's place against Zimbabwe, who got their campaign moving with an easy win over hapless Canada, also in Nagpur, yesterday.

Both Zimbabwe's games so far - a 91-run loss to Australia, and against Canada - have made it clear how heavily they will rely on spin bowling against New Zealand. Of the 50 overs delivered as Australia made 262 for six, 39 were a mix of off, leg and left arm spin.

Out of 42.1 overs used to dismiss Canada for 123, only five were medium pace or above.

New Zealand has two injury niggles, but both Scott Styris (damaged finger) and captain Dan Vettori (hamstring) are expected to be fit.

In tonight's only game, England, fresh from their dramatic tie against joint hosts India in Bangalore on Sunday night, play Ireland, who gave Bangladesh a fright in their only game so far, losing by 27 runs in Mirpur.

In their three previous meetings, the Irish have lost, but respectably, by 38, 48 and three runs, most recently in Belfast 18 months ago.

It does not immediately appeal as boilover material, but that's what this tournament needs to inject some snap and crackle into a pretty ho-hum few days.

Meanwhile Mike Hussey could be set to play in the World Cup, after all. The Australian lefthander is among the world's best one-day-international batsmen.

He was controversially omitted in the initial squad of 15 due to a hamstring problem he reckoned was coming right, but is tipped to take the place vacated by injured fast bowler Doug Bollinger.

He has had surgery and is due to play for Western Australia against Queensland in a four-dayer starting tomorrow.

No decision is likely for a few more days as Australia's selectors consider where they most require extra cover. Time is on their side.

They play Sri Lanka on Saturday, followed by lightweight games against Kenya and Canada next week before a potentially clutch game against Pakistan on March 19.

- NZ Herald

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