James Benning could be set for a surprise return to action with Leicestershire less than six months after being released by the county.
The 27-year-old former Surrey all-rounder is back on trial at Grace Road and could be a surprise inclusion in the side for the County Championship opener against Glamorgan on April 8 if Wayne White fails to recover from a side strain.
Benning, who is now working for helmet makers Albion, was asked to play in an inter-squad match on April 5 having been invited back for nets during pre-season’s last week.
“James still has the desire to play at this level. We have been honest and straight with him,” said Leicestershire coach Phil Whitticase. “If we need him he’s there on our doorstep. We are not expecting him to be here every day like our other trialists because he has a job now. He’s also got some Minor Counties cricket lined up.
“But he could possibly still figure. When you look at the balance of our side without Wayne White and Andrew McDonald, that all-rounder’s position is quite key for us so James could come into contention.”
Leicestershire expect seamer Harry Gurney to have recovered from a hamstring tweak in time to face Glamorgan and veteran Paul Nixon might also make an unexpected appearance in the Grace Road opener despite having only recently undergone surgery on a knee cartilage injury.
Nixon has made a rapid recovery and will play in a squad match in an attempt to prove his fitness. With a barebones squad and little money available for reinforcements, Whitticase may to have use more players like Benning, on a match-by-match basis, to cover for injuries.
Seamer Sam Cliff, who retired last season because of persistent injury problems, is also back on trial and has bowled well in pre-season.
Wicketkeepers Ned Eckersley, a former MCC Young Cricketer, and Paul Dixey, released by Kent last year, have also impressed in pre-season matches and will stay with Leicestershire on extended trials.
“The reserve wicketkeeper is a position that we need to cover and both of them have shaped up well so far,” Whitticase said. “We do have a little bit of money left in the pot if we do need to go into the loan market or if we see somebody.”
Slow left-armer Claude Henderson will arrive back in England in time for the Glamorgan match fresh from having helped the Cape Cobras win the SuperSport Series in South Africa. Henderson took nine wickets in the match to help set up a seven-wicket win over the Warriors, including a five for 83 second innings haul.