Cricket: Bennett gets a first class Cup chance

By David Leggat

Watch Hamish Bennett at the World Cup and think of him as the next young contender to push for a place in the New Zealand seam-bowling department.

Having got his chance on the ill-starred ODI tour to Bangladesh in the middle of last year, Bennett's progress was disrupted by injury on the opening day of his test debut against India a few weeks later.

Now, fit again, he has a role to play at the World Cup as the third member of the new-ball triumvirate, alongside the experienced Kyle Mills and Tim Southee.

Although he's only 23, Bennett has been around the first-class game a while. The Timaru Boys High old boy made his debut for Canterbury against Wellington in Christchurch in December 2005 at just 18.

Went well, did it?

"Not too good," he said.

Steep learning curve, perhaps?


Wellington won by an innings and plenty, Bennett walked away with figures of 28-3-154-2, Grant Elliott and Chris Nevin his first wickets.

He's been there or thereabouts since then, has taken 91 first-class wickets in 34 games, but when he got his chance in Bangladesh, important eyes liked what they saw. Captain Dan Vettori and Mark Greatbatch, then coach and now selection panel convener, spoke favourably of his contribution.

He took three wickets in his two games, ran in purposefully, hit the pitch hard and his angle into the righthanders made him a lively proposition.

"I was definitely surprised," Bennett said. "I thought I'd probably got more chance of going to Zimbabwe on the A tour at the time. So it was surprising, but also a great honour."

Move forward to his test debut at Ahmedabad in November. Late on the first day of the opening match of the series he pulled up with an abdominal tear and groin strain, a kind of two-for-one deal.

It was a new injury, and there was no warning.

"It was pretty disappointing, especially at that time of the game [New Zealand taking a flogging from Virendar Sehwag and Rahul Dravid] and at that point of the tour," he said.

Now he reckons after a lengthy period of rehabilitation, although no surgery, he's back in business. He played his first ODI against Central Districts on January 9, has had four games, picking up five wickets at 28 runs apiece, and feels his pace is back where it was.

Bennett hopes his time in Bangladesh and India will give him a decent grounding for what lies ahead at the World Cup. There were lessons for a young man to absorb.

"Just the experience of playing on the sub-continent, the conditions, the heat, the intensity, the crowd, the off-the-field stuff. A lot of little things, just the way international cricket is played," he said.

As a young schoolboy, Bennett remembers as "an impressionable 13- or 14-year-old", watching the red-and-black heroes of the likes of Shane Bond, Geoff Allott, Chris Cairns, Chris Harris and Craig McMillan in action when Canterbury ventured a couple of hours south. He wanted to be an allrounder. It hasn't quite worked out that way.

So how's the batting? "Not allrounder status."

As for the World Cup, Bennett is a subscriber to the on-the-day philosophy.

"One player can change the game. Someone can rock up and take five or six wickets, or hit a great 100. We've got lots of matchwinners.

"We need one of them to fire, two or three would be even better and then we've got a good chance."

If he continues to make a favourable impression, there is a place to be scrapped for in the test team.

As well as Chris Martin performed against Pakistan, he is coming towards the end of his career.

Brent Arnel is the wrong side of 30. Southee, at 22, and with a solid body of work against Pakistan behind him, is the future. Bennett has the chance to present his credentials to join him over the coming weeks.

- NZ Herald

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