First-team coach Dale Benkenstein has branded Hampshire’s teenage spin sensation Mason Crane ‘world-class’ ahead of a telling season for 2015’s breakthrough player.
Leg-spinner Crane has been named in the Ageas Bowl outfit’s 13-man squad for tomorrow’s County Championship division one curtain raiser with Warwickshire.
And the 19-year-old is looking to take over the mantle left by Sussex-bound Danny Briggs after taking the Championship by storm with his 10 wickets in three games at the end of last season.
Crane bamboozled top-class batsman, including maiden first-team scalp Kumar Sangakkara, with his wily turn and made fans talk last season – with Steve Harmison leading calls for him to earn an England call-up.
Ex-Durham captain Benkenstein thinks Crane could be even better this year.
‘Mason is world-class at the moment,’ he said.
‘He hardly bowls a bad ball and he is really looking impressive and his batting is also improving.
‘Even world-class spinners will struggle to do anything in some conditions but over the course of six months he will play a big role.
‘I’m really pleased that after doing so well last year he has come back over the winter and become better than he was – the talk in the media hasn’t ruined him.
‘He is a proper leg-spinner, he just bowls a leg break – he doesn’t try going straight and those sort of things.
‘He just bowls a hard spinning leg break and has become more consistent.’
Hampshire have taken some flak from some quarters for their seemingly aged squad, with Michael Carberry, Jimmy Adams, Sean Ervine, Ryan McClaren and Fidel Edwards all upwards of 30.
But impressive showings in pre-season from young talent Joe Weatherley, Tom Alsop and Lewis McManus has proved another side to the county – especially with worrying early campaign injures to Adams, Gareth Berg and another youngster Ryan Stephenson.
Benkenstein is happy with his mix of experience and energy.
He said: ‘The balance of the team is perfect – that’s what will make the team brilliant for a long period.
‘Last season we had too many young players and too few good, experienced players and that took its toll, especially in the bowling.
‘On paper, we now have an attack to do well but we have to go out and do it – we have as good as an attack as we could ask for coming into the first game.’
– ALEX SMITH