Ali Zaryab marked his home debut with a brilliant all-round display that steered Kenilworth Wardens to a thrilling six wicket Birmingham Premier League division one win over Himley.
The former Pakistan under-19 international took full advantage of a flat Glasshouse Park pitch to stroke an even-time unbeaten 122 as the hosts chased down their daunting 257 run target with ten balls and six wickets in hand.
Zaryab had earlier been the pick of Wardens’ attack while claiming one for 27 from ten frugal overs of off-spin and captain Harry Johnson was quick to acknowledge his outstanding contribution.
“Ali showed his class today,” he said. “He came in to bat in a tough situation facing a big score against good bowling and was extremely patient while still punishing the bad ball.
“The way he was then able to score freely and rotate the strike against spin set him apart from anyone else on the pitch. Later on he expanded his game and some of his strokes were outstanding.
“Hopefully this is just the start and he can play this role for us throughout the season.”
Himley’s Bilaal Hussain (24) and Ollie Westbury (66) opened up with a useful 73-run partnership against a home attack which lost new ball bowler Andy Leering to injury after only one over.
Thereafter the home side’s back-up seamers proved extremely wayward while conceding no fewer than 54 wides and as a result the Black Country-based visitors gradually built a commanding total.
Ollie Walker (39) helped Westbury add 59 for the third wicket before Mahaaz Ahmed’s breezy 22 took Himley to a maximum haul of batting bonus points.
Tommy Rex again impressed with the ball for Wardens while claiming two for 42, but it was Zaryab whose naggingly accurate spell applied the brake before Johnson’s occasional off-spin claimed four late scalps.
Keith Bell then played the key supporting role in the hosts’ run chase by stroking eight boundaries in a fine 67. The opener added 129 with second-wicket partner Zaryab before falling to Jamie Turner who finished with two for 48.
This left the stage clear for Wardens’ Central Punjab left-hander to dominate the remainder of the match.
He found the boundary 13 times and cleared it on three occasions in an outstanding match-clinching knock which received useful support from Henry Cullen (23). Leering then chipped in a run-a-ball unbeaten 20 to ensure there was no late drama.
Johnson commented: “After Himley got off to good start we dug in and pegged them back from 206 for three to 253 for nine through some tight bowling and good fielding.
“I was then really pleased with the way the lads went about the chase with Keith and Ali showing their experience in grinding down the opposition.
“By keeping wickets in hand we were able to accelerate in the latter stages of the innings with the middle order batting around Ali and being really positive.”
Picture - Steve Johnson