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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 May 2007, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Surrey prospect eyes big break
By Sam Lyon

James Benning
I've always been aggressive in all forms of the game, it's just something I do naturally...I see that as being an opening for me

James Benning
As the dust settles on another England failure at a World Cup, and with a new man already in charge in the form of Peter Moores, thoughts have inevitably turned to what went wrong.

The nature of England's exit served only to underline just how far behind the top one-day nations they have slumped, and fans are eager to see what changes Moores will implement.

New players will almost certainly be brought into the fold and, with England's lack of top order aggression exposed in the Caribbean, Surrey's James Benning could be one beneficiary of a change in philosophy.

Quite simply, England cannot afford to continue failing to take advantage of the powerplay overs at the start of an innings.

And if powerful hitters are the order of the day, Benning could be just the man to provide the necessary oomph.

The 23-year-old averaged a quickfire 64.75 in the Pro-40 second division last season and smashed 152 from 134 balls on Sunday in helping Surrey set a new world-record limited-overs score of 496-4 against Gloucestershire.

606: DEBATE
Sam Lyon

"I have always been aggressive in all forms of the game, it's just something I do naturally, something I don't have to force," Benning told BBC Sport.

"I watched a lot of the World Cup, and you can't criticise England's players at the top of the order because they played the way they always have done.

"They played the game that was most natural to them, and they got picked on that basis. That was the route that England chose to take.

"But, maybe if there was a more aggressive hitter up there it would've helped and, if there is a change of philosophy, I see that as being an opening for me."

That is an opinion shared by Surrey captain Mark Butcher, who recently said: "His stock rises the more England falter. He's worked very, very hard of his game, is very talented, and hopefully will continue to impress."

And Benning is clearly in the thoughts of the England selectors.

Michael Vaughan
Vaughan averaged just over 23 in a disappointing World Cup

His form of last season - during which time he hit 189 not out against Gloucestershire - was rewarded with a place at Loughborough in the winter, where an accident caused a wrist injury that meant he had no hope of earning a place on the England 'A' tour to Australia.

But the right-hander, who can also bowl medium pace, insists that was "no great setback" and plans to make his mark for Surrey this season to give new coach Moores something to think about.

"All I can do is keep scoring runs for Surrey and then see what happens," he said.

"Over the winter, I took time out and made a few minor adjustments to my technique in the nets with (Surrey second-team coach) Nadim Shahid, but I didn't change too much because my game is all about being natural and enjoying it.

"I do bowl as well. I haven't had too many opportunities to do so with Surrey but I am always training and working on it, so that is something that I feel I can also offer.

What I feel I have done well is take the way I play in Twenty20 into one-day cricket, and my game has come on because of that

James Benning

"I haven't had many dealings with Peter Moores in the past - I met him for the first time up in Loughborough - but everyone I've spoken to says he is a very good man manager and an excellent coach who keeps things simple.

"To an extent it's out of my hands, but I just hope that I'm the kind of player that the new regime is looking for."

A strike-rate of over 146 in Twenty20 cricket suggests the two internationals against the West Indies in late June could be Benning's best chance of a breakthrough, and he is already licking his lips.

"The way I play helps me score quickly and I love Twenty20.

"But what I feel I have done well is take the way I play in Twenty20 into one-day cricket, and my game has come on because of that.

"My dream is to play at the highest level, whatever form it is.

"So to face the Windies might just be a fantastic stepping stone. If I perform, you never know what is going to happen.

For the supporters who had to endure England's lame exit from the World Cup this winter, Benning's aggressive intent at the top of the order might be just what the doctor ordered.



SEE ALSO
England to limit coach's powers
30 Apr 07 |  England
Surrey smash world one-day record
29 Apr 07 |  Counties
Moores provides upbeat approach
20 Apr 07 |  England
England name Moores as new coach
20 Apr 07 |  England
England's rebuilding process
18 Apr 07 |  England
Vaughan insists he will not quit
17 Apr 07 |  England


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