Chris Benjamin takes the fast track to stardom after extraordinary seizing of the moment

Stunning scooped six announces talent of young batter on Warwickshire rookie contract

George Dobell
George Dobell
Chris Benjamin's reverse-scoop for six was an eyecatching arrival  •  Getty Images

Chris Benjamin's reverse-scoop for six was an eyecatching arrival  •  Getty Images

Given Chris Benjamin's current career trajectory, he'll be Prime Minister by Thursday.
In his media conference after the game, the 22-year-old Benjamin said he had "waited patiently" for this opportunity. "This is something I've waited a long time for," he said. But it seems, from the outside, as if everything has happened in an incredible rush.
Benjamin was only signed as a professional player three weeks ago. He's only played one T20 match - last Sunday - and he only made his List A debut on Thursday. As in, 24 hours before this Hundred match at Edgbaston.
But here he is, appearing in a tournament that was billed as 'the best v the best' and playing a match-defining hand, at that. His 24 from 15 balls might not, at first glance, look especially impressive. But it came with the match in the balance, in front of the sort of crowd he had never experienced, and he finished it undefeated after producing some strokes that had you jerking forward in your seat. If you could buy shares in cricketers…
Let's talk about those shots first. It was a scoop for six over deep third that first grabbed the attention. It was pretty much a length ball from the seamer Blake Cullen. A generation ago, a player might have tried to run it past the keeper. Or they might have tried to give themselves some room to flog it through the off-side. But it's hard to hit sixes from either of those options. And the scoop is something of a speciality for Benjamin. He got off the mark with the stroke in a warm-up game a few days ago. Zak Crawley later said it was the one thing the London Spirit side knew about him as a batter: he could scoop.
A couple of balls later, Cullen dropped short. As if to try the young pretender with the bouncer. It was a decent one, too. Head height. Sharp. It landed in the third row of the stands at square leg. Benjamin can hook and scoop.
The next shot only went for four. But it might have been the best of the lot. Chris Wood is a vastly experienced T20 bowler. And his wide yorker seemed to be directed pretty much perfectly. But somehow Benjamin didn't just connect, he did so with such power that the ball sped past mid-off. It left Birmingham needing only one more run to draw level with Spirit's total. Benjamin can scoop and hook and drive.
The match sustains a remarkable few weeks for Benjamin. In between pursuing his dream as a cricketer, he completed his finals at Durham University. Those cricketing demands meant he sometimes had to schedule his exams for late at night; one of them finished at 3.30am. But, in keeping with his incredible summer, he gained a first in his degree in Accountancy and Finance. Really, the only surprise about this innings was that his bat didn't turn to gold as soon as he touched it.
Maybe Benjamin's life changed with that T20 debut on Sunday. He was player of the match, after all, in making an unbeaten 60 off 34 balls against Northants; an innings which helped his side quality for the quarter-finals of the competition.
Or maybe his life changed on Tuesday. Coming to Edgbaston for a session on his keeping, he was instead asked to join the Birmingham Phoenix squad. Adam Hose was injured and Moeen Ali, the Phoenix captain, had been impressed with what he had seen in a second XI game a few weeks previously. For a man with only one professional T20 game behind him, it was an incredible promotion. The likes of Ed Pollock could be forgiven for a twinge of envy.
From there, he impressed in the nets. Daniel Vettori, the Birmingham coach, was impressed by the way the new face was hitting it. Nobody, he reckoned, was timing it better. And on Thursday, given the chance to play make his List A debut for Warwickshire against Glamorgan, he made another 50. Suddenly, Benjamin found himself in the Phoenix team.
But of course the story starts before that. Maybe it really starts in South Africa, where he was born and from where his voice retains a gentle twang. Or at Durham University, where he won a place in the MCCU side and played a couple of first-class games in 2020. Maybe it even starts before that, with a dad who was born in Hampstead and therefore guaranteed him a UK passport. Sometimes it seems you could write a book about every innings.
Either way, Moeen's intervention has been key. Let's let him take up the story.
"I played a second team game [for Worcestershire] about a month ago," Moeen says. "It wasn't so much the number of runs he scored - I think he made 34 [it was actually only 18] - as the way he scored them. He hit the ball so cleanly. He was brave. There was something about him and he really impressed me.
"Then Adam Hose went down with an injury and we were looking for a replacement. I pushed for him to come into the team."
Moeen had also been at the ground when Benjamin scored an unbeaten 95 from 43 balls in a T20 against Worcestershire seconds. So he recognised the name when he heard about this kid who had thrashed 149 in another second XI T20 match against Glamorgan a couple of weeks later.
And he recognised the name of the guy who was appointed captain of the Warwickshire side which won the second XI T20 competition. And who was signed on a rookie contract at the end of June as Warwickshire were worried they didn't have sufficient depth in their keeping resources. Moeen realised, too, that opposition players wouldn't know much about him. Maybe, in the months ahead, they'll find him out. But you wouldn't count on it.
"How far can he go?" Moeen asks. "He can go a long way in the game. I think it was Ravi [Bopara] who said he reminded him of Jos Buttler and I can see that. He's strong. He's got all the shots. Yes, he can go a long way."
There's a lesson here about opportunity, too. Given a Covid-free year, there's no way Benjamin is playing in this match. He might well not have won a chance at Warwickshire. But just as Tom Lammonby, who looks another extravagant prospect, won his chance at Somerset in 2020 due to the absence of more experienced players, Benjamin showed what can happen when young talent is given a chance. And a competition involving just eight teams and multiple overseas players doesn't necessarily offer that.
Anyway, right now, Benjamin is only on a rookie contract at Edgbaston until the end of the season. Which is like leaving your Picasso uninsured and by an open window. You would think it was a situation which would be rectified very quickly. This was only one innings. It was only one night. But you would expect to hear a lot more about Chris Benjamin.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo