Benny Alexander Cameron Howell
October 05, 1988, Bordeaux, France
Right hand bat
Right arm medium fast
Benny Howell is a citizen of the world who for a while felt he belonged nowhere: born in Bordeaux, educated at the Oratory School in Berkshire, and with Australian and UK passports, he was almost lost to the game. Instead, alongside his middle-order batting, his individualistic, experimental medium-pace has gained such prominence at Gloucestershire that he can fairly be regarded as one of the world's most innovative T20 specialists.
When he was a child he was diagnosed with ADHD and, with Gloucestershire's support, he turned to medication and meditation. "It feels like I have a million thoughts going on in my head," he said in 2018. As a T20 bowler, he turned it to his advantage: an impulsive experimenter who batsmen found impossible to predict.
A holiday in America changed Howell's career. He went to a Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies game and became obsessed with the duel between pitcher and batter. He got a role as a reserve pitcher for a Melbourne baseball club during his time there in district cricket. This interest in baseball influenced his bowling technique in T20 as he concentrated on shifting pace, increasing his change-ups - his knuckle-ball was particularly effective - and moving the ball in the air. He claimed in The Cricketer that he had 50 variants of slower ball. But England have ignored him, concluding that his slower balls were too samey.
Howell took 24 wickets in the NatWest Blast in 2016 and becoming the first English professional to sign up for the Bangladesh Premier League that day, a typically independent act, in defiance of PCA advice that security could not be guaranteed; others followed his lead as England's tour, highly protected, passed off without incident. Gloucestershire gave him a new three-year contract at the end of the season. He topped the county's T20 averages again in 2018; 17 wickets this time.
He had been on Hampshire's books for several years - initially through their academy as an opening batsman - before his first team debut in limited-overs cricket in 2010. He travelled with Hampshire to the Caribbean T20 in January 2011 and made his first-class debut against Lancashire later that summer, scoring 71 in the second innings. But that turned out to be his only first-class match for Hampshire, alongside 26 limited-overs games, as he was released at the end of the 2011 season. He left with a reputation for being brash and over confident..
Thanks to the intervention of Dave Fulton, a former Kent captain dabbling as an agent, he successfully restarted his career with Gloucestershire and made his 2nd XI debut in April 2012, making a double century at Bristol. His performance earned him an immediate first-team debut at Canterbury, where he made 44 and 10 in a drawn game. He played the entire first-class season in 2013 and contributed nearly 600 runs and took 30 wickets. He posted a gritty maiden Championship hundred against Leicestershire at the Cheltenham Festival in 2015 and his three wickets the same season helped turn a Royal London Cup semi-final against Yorkshire at Headingley - a competition that Gloucestershire went on to win, their first trophy since 2004.
Championship opportunities were rare, however, as he became known as a T20 specialist. When he got a chance near the end of the 2017 season, he responded with a career-best 163 in a largely drab affair against Glamorgan in Cardiff.
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