JOSH Bennett has capped off a whirlwind week of cricket with selection in the Australian Country XI and an Australian Country Cricket Championship win.
Bennett has starred for the Bush Blues throughout the 2013 championship at Bundaberg, Queensland, claiming 21 wickets at an average of 12.2 as NSW Country wrapped up back-to-back titles with a penultimate round win over Northern Territory Country yesterday.
But the championship win was only half the prize for Bennett.
A former quick with Orange City, Bennett was named in the Australian Country XI to take on a Queensland Invitational XI last Friday night.
The Queensland line-up was captained by Australian Test quick Ryan Harris while Brisbane Heat batsman Andrew Robinson and fringe Big Bash League players Alex Kemp, Dom Michael, Glen Batticciotto and Ronan McDonald also played.
Bennett, now at University in Newcastle, was one of three Bush Blues picked in the Australian team alongside Tom Groth and Parkes and Western Zone skipper Pat Rosser, who has exploded this tournament scoring 309 runs with a strike rate of 137.
Rosser hit 110 off 92 against East Asia Pacific and 69 not out off 24 balls versus WA Country in one of the champ’s Twenty20 matches.
But in the same format against the Queensland Invitational XI, Rosser hit 19 while Bennett, taking the new ball, copped some punishment going for 0-22 off two overs.
Despite that, 22-year-old Bennett, in his maiden championship with the NSW Bush Blues, couldn’t have asked for a better return from the titles.
The former Orange High student has claimed three five wicket hauls - 5-44 against the ACT, 7-86 versus Queensland Country and then 5-60 against East Asia Pacific - so far, and was one of NSW Country’s best in the Twenty20 win over WA Country, taking 2-9 off three overs.
In yesterday’s penultimate round, NSW bowled out Northern Territory Country for 116, with Bennett claiming 2-25, then chased the target just four wickets down.
NSW takes on Victoria today in a top of the table, final round championship match-up.
However, NSW has already earned the 2013 crown thanks to the eight-point buffer the Bush Blues enjoy over the Victorians.
The most points Victoria Country can earn out of today’s 50-over match is six.
The win is the first time the NSW Bush Blues has won back-to-back Australian Country Cricket Championship crowns since 1985-86 and the side’s 11th title in total, a great feat for both Bennett and the side’s opening batter, Orange skipper Trent Colley.