Spinner Jeremy Benton has won a tight race to secure Canterbury’s last domestic cricket contract.
The 21-year-old’s long-term potential and left-arm variation has helped him gain a spot on the association’s 15-player list for the first time.
Benton has benefited from Ronnie Hira’s move back to Auckland for full-time work, though last summer’s Twenty20 skipper could still be sighted for the Kings in the T20 competition.
Canterbury coach Gary Stead said Benton’s limited overs record was “very good” and was being viewed as a possibility in the one-day and T20 formats.
“The reason Jeremy has been given the nod is he provides options in two forms of the game, rather than just one,” Stead said.
“He may not get a massive load of opportunities this year. Down the track, he’ll be an integral part of our Canterbury line-up.”
Benton won out in a close battle with batsman Jack Boyle, spinner Theo van Woerkom, wicketkeeper Freddie Anderson and seamer Nathan McNicol, who were also in contention for the last spot.
In 2014, he was a member of the New Zealand under-19 side for their youth World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. He also previously captained the Christchurch Boys’ High first 11 to national schoolboys success.
Benton, who plays for the Lincoln club, captained the title-winning Canterbury A side last summer and has been involved with Canterbury Country at Hawke Cup level.
Stead believed Benton, who is on a Canterbury Cricket exchange with English county, Durham, could have a long and productive first class career.
“He’s not a massive turner of the ball, but he’s a smart cricketer.
“He’s got some really smart leadership capabilities. He’s an excellent fielder. I think he’ll turn into a real quality spinner.”
Benton has been playing for the Whitburn Cricket Club and Durham academy in England. In his first game for Whitburn, he claimed a five-wicket bag.
Canterbury players Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Cole McConchie and Ken McClure have all previously been part of the Durham exchange.
With Todd Astle, Tim Johnston and McConchie in their spin bowling stocks, Benton might have to bide his time to get a regular run and could spend most of his debut first class season soaking up knowledge.
McClure nabbed Canterbury’s final contract spot last season and went on to have to a memorable summer, scoring 667 Plunket Shield runs at an average of 60, which included an unbeaten 193 against Otago in Invercargill.
AT A GLANCE:
Canterbury contracted list: Todd Astle, Leo Carter, Michael Davidson, Andrew Ellis, Cameron Fletcher, Peter Fulton, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Johnston, Cole McConchie, Ken McClure, Ed Nuttall, Henry Shipley, Logan van Beek, Will Williams, Jeremy Benton.
Arcitle courtesy of Brendon Egan, Stuff