Ben Wheeler's gone from crushing grapes to crushing batsmen in the past year.

The left-arm pace bowler returned to international cricket in New Zealand's opening T20 win against Bangladesh, taking two for 22 from four relatively tidy overs.

The 25-year-old showed composure and control opening the attack, apart from three wides in his final over. He was attempting, as has become contemporary limited overs wisdom, to bowl full yorkers outside off. The thinking is batsmen struggle to stretch and score boundaries if adequate fielding protection is in place.

However, Wheeler's initial first three-over spell cost 13 runs and included 11 dot balls. He predominantly bowled back of a length. Only one boundary was conceded and he took the prime wicket of Tamim Iqbal. The Bangladeshi opener pulled to deep square leg where Wheeler's Central Districts teammate - and fellow debutant - Tom Bruce took the catch.


The pair simultaneously made their maiden appearance on a New Zealand T20 scorecard.

"I'd be lying if I said there weren't a few nerves," Wheeler said. "But the guys gave me confidence to go out and do my thing. It was nice when the first ball came out and swung.

"I bowled a couple of wides at the end, but I was trying to get it as close to the line as I can for the yorker. I was happy to go for one boundary in my last over [the 18th]."

"It was also cool to get that [wicket] with Brucey."

"Ben swung the ball nicely at the top," captain Kane Williamson added. "We all know he's a good death bowler, but those first three overs set the tone."

Wheeler returned after playing six ODIs in England, Zimbabwe and South Africa during 2015. He subsequently suffered a back injury and bowled just 33 Ford Trophy overs at domestic level last summer.

He headed to Hawke's Bay's Craggy Range vineyard.

"I got a job through a friend of a friend. It's good fun," Wheeler said.

"It was tough to get the injury after I'd had a taste [of international cricket] with two tours overseas. I got away from everything in winter and didn't bowl a cricket ball for three to four months. I worked at the winery, which helped ease my mind, then got back to training.

"It's been a long wait, but it was great to get my first game at home and have the crowd behind me, rather than copping abuse overseas."

It won't be the last time Wheeler busies himself among the grapes. He sees employment in the viticulture industry as a viable career option.

"When I finished school, a mate's brother in Blenheim was a winemaker at Yealands Estate [east of Seddon]. I did about four harvests there, then I'd do a cricket season and a bit of training in between.

"I moved up here [Hawke's Bay] but didn't do it for couple of years. Last year I really enjoyed it again, and want to pursue it in future.

"They're a great bunch [of people] at Craggy Range and they love watching their cricket."
In the meantime, Wheeler's looking to emulate senior left-armer Trent Boult in the Black Caps' ranks.

"He swings the ball at good pace, which is what I try to do. It was good to have a couple of days [with the squad] watching how he bowled to Bangladesh in Nelson. I could see how he was troubling their lefties at the start."

Wheeler was quick to put that into action in Napier.