When the Canterbury Wizards announced they would break the domestic Twenty20 cricket trend and not employ an import, Logan van Beek might have given a little fist-pump.
Had Canterbury Cricket shelled out for a rent-a-pro, the 23-year-old all-rounder could have been on the outer like so many up-and-coming cricketers around the country at T20 time.
But van Beek got his chance and has cemented his spot in the side. He's performed impressively and taken on the tricky role of death bowler, helping the Wizards through to tomorrow night's elimination semifinal against the Northern Knights at Hamilton's Seddon Park.
The Wizards boast plenty of depth with former internationals Shanan Stewart and Todd Astle, former Big Bash player Simon Keen and the in-form Henry Nicholls all unable to get a game.
But van Beek is there. He's one of the competition's best fielders, is bowling at the toughest part of the innings and is a clean striker of the ball.
Consistency of selection, faith shown in him by captain Peter Fulton and coach Gary Stead and a big chunk of self belief have all contributed to his improvement, van Beek said.
"In the past I've thought too much about trying to secure a spot in the team and what I need to do to do that. It kind of got the better of me and I put too much pressure on myself. I take it all a bit more positively now. I've been given an opportunity and I just do as well as I can."
It's the same attitude he takes into his death bowling task.
"It's a pressure situation, but it's probably worse thinking about it than actually doing it. I enjoy it though, you're expected to get hit so you can do pretty well if you bowl well."
A back injury last season slowed the progress of van Beek, a former New Zealand under-19 player. But time with Canterbury bowling coach Dayle Hadlee and strength and conditioning man Neil Tyndall have all helped his bowling and confidence.
Andrew Ellis, a senior allrounder in the side, had been impressed with van Beek's development this season and predicted big things for him.
"He's a naturally skilful player and, after his back injury, being on the park regularly allows those skills to come out," Ellis said.
"He's only going to get better and better too.
"He's a more naturally talented player than I was at that stage in my career with a lot more natural batting and bowling skills. There's scope for him to go further than I have."
Ellis said while teams focused on the stars, players like van Beek had the ability to help the side throughout the season with plenty of solid performances.
Canterbury have had two minor injury scares and all-rounders Rob Nicol and Ellis could both need a pain-killing injection before tomorrow's match.
Ellis broke the little finger in his right hand while fielding a ball off his own bowling on Sunday. Nicol has pain in his ribs after being hit twice on the same spot in consecutive games.
Ellis took a full part in training yesterday while Nicol did not bowl. Both are expected to play and Canterbury are expecting to take an unchanged 12 to Hamilton today.
Meanwhile, Northern Districts will be without at least two of their Black Caps and possibly more.
Tim Southee and Corey Anderson have both been ruled out while ND boss Peter Roach said the association was still working with New Zealand Cricket on the possible availability of Kane Williamson and Trent Boult.
It is understood Black Caps' duties will rule Williamson out. Boult would have been more likely to play but for a thigh injury.
Northern Districts, who have already used four imports in this year's competition yet do not have the money to send a team to the national under-17 tournament, are also understood to be looking at one or two imports for tomorrow's match.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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