Double double trouble in Year 8 Green

There wouldn’t be many cricket teams around who have twins in the side – but Birkenhead’s Year 8 Green has double that.

Two sets of twins Alec and Ewan Bennie, 13, and Joshua and Blake Holloway, also 13, all play for the junior side. Neither pair is identical, but there’s no denying they are brothers.

All boys go to Takapuna Normal Intermediate, where Blake Holloway and Alec Bennie are also in the same class. The twins also spent several years at Chelsea Primary together.

There’s familiarity that comes with being brothers and friends, but all four boys are naturally competitive too. That doesn’t extend to running each other out if batting together though.

“Alec and Ewan haven’t batted a lot together over the years,” says dad Stephen. “Normally Alec has either retired or got out before Ewan has come in.” (In junior cricket players usually retire at 30 but can come back in if the batting side is all out.)

If they do bat together, it usually works, with both being quick between the wickets.

“Especially Ewan,” says his dad. “He runs quicker in pads than shorts and T-shirt.”

Alec, who was recently selected for a North Harbour Year 8 side to play in the district tournament, is a right-arm medium/fast seam bowler, while Ewan, who is shorter, is a right-arm medium-pacer.

When it comes to batting and fielding, they virtually mirror each other. Alec is a left-handed opener whose favourite shot is the cut, but he also likes cow corner. He fields at mid-on and point. Ewan is a right-hand middle-order batsman whose favourite shot is the sweep and he fields at short mid-off or wicketkeeps.

Alec’s cricket idol is Kane Williamson, while Ewan looks to fellow wicket-keeper batsman BJ Watling.

The Bennie boys’ favourite memory in club cricket so far was in the last game of last season when the opposition were in their last over of an impossible run chase. Early in the over an opposition wicket fell to a caught behind, at which point a few more of a team joined the slip cordon.

Says dad Stephen: “Then, in a clear contravention of year 7 cricket rules, the whole team, apart from the bowler, were behind square leg for the last ball of the last over.” (He is quick to point out it was a play-off for 7th and 8th so no silverware rested on the outcome.)

“With an entire range of scoring shots in front of square and anything down leg, the opposition batsman stepped back, deep into his crease to a very slow but straight delivery and was plum lbw. Spectators were treated to the unusual sight of bowler, wicket keeper and nine slips jumping and appealing in unison!”

The Holloway boys’ mum Kylie recalls one time last year when Joshua and Blake batted together and a run-out occurred, but in the early days whenever they paired up, communication was good.

“As they have got older and more competitive, they now bat in different positions in the order so they rarely bat together any more.  I do recall one run-out situation where they were batting together near the end of an innings and their coach Ray Gannaway told them they needed to run every ball.

“So Joshua took this on board and consequently Blake got run out which he yelled at Joshua for.  I asked Joshua whose fault it was he said “mine” with a cheeky grin but then said “no, actually it was Ray’s – he told us to run every ball”. ”

There have also been a few occasions where Blake has dropped catches off Josh’s bowling and Josh has not been impressed and yelled at him.  “They are both very competitive and there is a great deal of sibling rivalry which is greater than normal siblings as they are the same age and similar ability,” says Kylie.

Josh prefers to bat down the order and come in with a few overs to go when he has to try and hit runs. “He doesn’t like coming in earlier when he has to block and play safe and often ends up with a duck in these situations,” says Kylie.

Over the past couple of seasons Blake has enjoyed opening the batting, often with Alec Bennie.  “Blake doesn’t score many runs but plays a supporting role to Alec and usually stays in for the first six or so overs to see out the opening bowlers.”

When it comes to bowling, Josh  is a right-arm medium fast outswing bowler and Blake, the shorter of the two, is a right-arm medium in-swinger.

As for their cricketing idols, for Josh it’s Tim Southee and Brendon McCullum and for Blake it’s Brendon McCullum and Mitchell McClenaghan.

Coach of their team this year is club chairman Andrew Gale. It’s been a tough season so far for Year 8 Green with not so much as a victory to celebrate but the team has a good attitude regardless.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to coach the BCCC Year 8 Green team for the past two years, building on the great work from Mike Houlahan and Ray Gannaway, who had created a strong team culture,” says Andrew.

“With the boys having played together for quite a few seasons, they know each other really well and while this can mean they know how to get on each other’s nerves at times (and sometime’s the coach’s!), they enjoy each other’s company which makes them good to coach.”

Most cricketers move on to college cricket in Year 9, meaning they are unavailable for club cricket any more (although some choose to not to play for their school’s Colts and Elevens and opt for club cricket instead). In the twins’ case, next year Josh and Blake Holloway are off to Westlake, while Alec and Ewan Bennie will head to Northcote College.

Birkenhead City Cricket Club plays a big part in getting players ready for the competitive school competition with a key goal in mind – that they return to the club one day, whether in a serious or social team.

“We look forward to seeing them all back at BCCC once they’ve finished high school,” Andrew says.

That’s true now of a number of senior cricketers who have all come through the club ranks, headed to school cricket, then returned to where it all began.

And while the boys enjoying playing together, there have been times when helping out other sides, in keeping with the spirit of cricket, it hasn’t been easy.

On one occasion, an opposition team was short of players, so Joshua was fielding for them. Blake was batting and, as luck would have it, Joshua caught Blake out. It’s tough when it’s your own team-mate who does that, even tougher when it’s your twin.

“That didn’t go down very well with the whole team, especially not Blake,” laughs Kylie.

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