New Zealand v India, 3rd ODI, Auckland January 25, 2014

Bennett turns misery to delight

Hamish Bennett's return after a three-year hiatus from international cricket owing to a severe back injury proved quite sweet as he nullified Virat Kohli, one of the best batsmen of present day, before dismissing him

The man who dismissed Virat Kohli, arguably the most crucial Indian wicket in a chase, in Auckland is said to have an awkward action. But to limit Hamish Bennett's approach to the crease as just that would be an understatement. As jerky, open-chested and high-armed his delivery style is, Tim Southee described it best as "hard on the body," before the Auckland ODI.

So hard that Bennett's had screws and titanium wire put in his back to keep it from breaking. So hard that a bone was growing into his spinal cord. So hard that his debut Test in 2010 against India in Ahmedabad, which also ended in injury, was also his last first-class match for more than three years.

Somehow, Bennett came through it all. Still in one piece. He returned to the Plunket Shield last November and picked up 24 wickets in five games, the most this season, at 23.12. Adam Milne's break down in Napier paved way for Bennett's comeback to the New Zealand one-day squad. The last time he'd played for his country was in the 2011 World Cup. He wasn't going to play in Hamilton but was set to in Auckland.

When he came on to bowl, India's openers had put on 45 in seven overs. Bennett's first over went for 10. Facing him in his second was ODI batting machine Kohli, who had made 123 and 78 in Napier and Hamilton. But Bennett put to rest the frustration of years past with a quick, disciplined burst which nailed one of the best batsmen in the world.

Bennett bowled two successive maidens to Kohli before getting him in his next over. For 15 deliveries on the trot, Kohli wasn't allowed to do what he loves to: get right forward and feel the ball on his bat. Bennett, bustling in clumsily, was just outside off stump and was as nagging with his length, keeping it just short of good. Kohli could neither pull, nor could he drive. He pushed down the ground once, during the first maiden, but Bennett, for all his awkwardness, was down in time to stop it and deny Kohli.

"I thought tonight he bowled brilliantly," said Brendon McCullum. "That wicket of Kohli had a great sequence leading up to it as well. I thought he bowled outstandingly well a couple of overs to him to keep him scoreless and obviously to get the wicket as well was great. He was pretty chuffed at how it went today and we have to make sure he is okay for the next game."

Bennett beat Kohli with the first ball of the second maiden. The thing that separates Kohli from many other young India batsmen is his patience early on. He left a few with absolute calm. Bennett made him play with shortish ones angled in. Kohli pushed them softly from the crease to point, still getting nothing to stride forward and punch.

Two balls before he fell, Kohli defended off the back foot again and almost played on. Fortunately, the ball bounced over the stumps. Bennett had managed to ruffle Kohli and the next ball was inside-edged tentatively too. Then came the wicket ball. Seeing it a shade fuller, Kohli lunged forward to find release with the drive but could only nick it behind.

Bennett's celebration was a combination of a jump, pumped fists and a full-blooded roar. And he kept roaring. All the time spent under the surgeon's knife and in the recovery ward, unable to do what he was used to doing, would have floated in front of him.

"I'm just excited to get an opportunity, playing the No. 1 ranked team with their batting line-up ... all those times when you're on the couch and hating life and hating your body, this is what it all builds up to," Bennet said when he was picked as Milne's replacement.

McCullum knew his bowler had done something special after undergoing excruciating times. In a match where his fellow quick bowlers went for more than six an over, Bennett's analysis was 10-2-41-2. "It's a great story. He was lying on his back for six weeks after his back operation," McCullum said. "And after he bowled his first ball tonight, he said it was all worth it. It was a pretty nice feeling, seeing a guy who has gone through that to be able to make his way back. Delighted for him.

It will be "hard on the body" again as this tense series continues but worth all the strain for Bennett.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mohsin on January 27, 2014, 8:41 GMT

    @Insidehedge Not to say that his inability to play the sweep restricts his scoring vs spinners. But, inability to play backfoot drives & cuts will certainly be exploited by the pacemen henceforth, as was done by Bennett & NZ. He might get away in ODIs, but will be dissected in Tests. Watchout for next 2 ODIs. I first saw him struggle with that length in ODIs of SA 2011 tour. With all the talent that SA bowlers possess, they seem to be bad exploiters of batsmen's technique, including Steyn.

  • Mohsin on January 27, 2014, 8:02 GMT

    @Insidehedge Funny that u think i m jealous of kohli. I m a cricket fan & love all aspects of cricket, moreso fast bowling, which i think is d most strenous aspect of cricket. Infact i admire kohli's determination to stay at d wicket & see his side through which is better than SRT & Dravid. But, fact is fact. The guy is arrogant with a big ego. Seen him not walk off after being given out correctly many times. On top of that, he makes out as if he's been wronged. I dont expect him to be a saint i.e a walker, but at least walk off without being dishonest when umpire gets it right. Great batsmen never do that. SRT/Dravid were legends, pure gentleman. Kohli is nowhere near their allround batsmanship or their behaviour. For d record, he also cant play sweep either

  • Sanjay on January 26, 2014, 19:37 GMT

    @by mohsin9975: Yeah sure, Kohli is a poor batsman who can't play the cut, back foot punch and what else would you like to add to the list? Take a look at his record after each passing game, and weep into your cup of jealousy.

  • Sanjay on January 26, 2014, 19:23 GMT

    Hilarious to read some of these comments. With all due respect, he doesn't become a good bowler based on one game let alone 2 overs! You know batsmen have it easy in this era when one fast bowler like Mitch Johnson can wreak havoc with an entire batting lineup over FIVE Tests.

    We've had Bennett bowl straight deliveries at low 140s and ppl are going ga-ga. I'm not here to pour cold water over this guy but he was physically struggling to deliver 3 over spells. By all accounts, he deserves the plaudits from his teammates given his injurious past.

  • Saif on January 26, 2014, 11:42 GMT

    In hindsight the injury has done him a world of good. He now respects how tough it is on his body, and is mindful of that fact, while keeping his talent, he also is more mature now. n the 2011 WC I thought he was overrated, and the match he injured himself in, and the way he did it, made me furious. Hats off for not losing hope, and working hard, and coming back better. Will be watching him with interest :)

  • Android on January 26, 2014, 7:03 GMT

    that was a mind blowing spell from bennet.he makes his presence feel to the batsman.though he has an unusual action that puts tremondous pressure on his body similar to that of dan christian he clock good speeds.his line and length was more importantly a feast to wat ch.hope he has a good career ahead.

  • Raman on January 26, 2014, 4:07 GMT

    He is a very good bowler, but his bowling action is very painful to watch. The stress it puts on his body just when he is all set to bowl, will always cause trouble for him. Is cricket really worth that much that one has to get a street plate installed inside the back? While I wish him all the best, and hope that he has a long career, but it is highly unlikely. I suspect that he will always deal with injury issues like Shane Bond, who eventually retired because of them.

  • Sanjiv on January 26, 2014, 1:13 GMT

    Inspirational cricketer for every school boy in the world. Never give up working hard. And dreaming. And believing. And working a little harder still.

  • Mohsin on January 26, 2014, 0:31 GMT

    i m going to stick my neck out here and say this- Bennett bowled the perfect line and length to kohli. I hav seen kohli get out to that length outside off many times. Its baffling that it took so long (4000 ODI runs) for bowlers all over the world to realise that he struggles to score off that length, as he rarely/never cuts or plays the backfoot punch on the off/on side vs fast bowlers. Had been hearing to gavaskar that he has all shots in the book. Rubbish. He is no SRT, Ponting, Lara, Kallis, Sanga who can play every shot in the book. But has to admire his determination and condone his attitude of not to walk even when given out by the umpire correctly. Well done Bennett n NZ think-tank

  • Dummy4 on January 26, 2014, 0:14 GMT

    NZ is looking good with a lot of depth now with old players coming back from injury and new players who have had enough time in the team now to give them a decent experience. Its like its all coming together finally. It used to be that when one of our lead bowlers broke down there would be no-one worthy of replacing them, now we've got even Kyle Mills, one of our best bowlers waiting in the wings, we've got other batsmen and all rounders pushing for places, like Hamish Rutherford and Jimmy Neesham and whats best is all of our team are firing at some point.

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