Kenilworth Wardens overseas signing Ali Zaryab made a fine start to life in Warwickshire by stroking a classy 83 in his new club’s pre-season pipe-opener against Leamington.
The 22-year-old former Pakistan under 19 all-rounder emerged from a spell in Covid isolation to hit seven fours and five sixes in a pleasingly fluent 79-ball knock.
Zaryab’s contribution underpinned a stop-start Wardens innings that closed at 232 before some powerful ball striking from Ollie Currill (82*) and Chris Calcott (48) saw the hosts to a six-wicket win.
The Central Punjab left-hander who said he enjoyed his first action with his new teammates somewhat surprisingly also found the freezing conditions to his liking.
“In Lahore the coldest day is around 10 degrees and it can go over 50 degrees,” he said. “I haven’t seen snow before so it was very good to experience it while we were fielding and while I was batting.
“It will be very good for me to play in a Premier League in England. I am expecting to learn lots about playing the Duke ball in tough conditions which will help my batting.”
In 2019 Zaryab appeared in Somerset for North Petherton where he scored nearly 500 runs and took 36 wickets, but it is his professional career which caught the eye of Wardens supremo Ant Pidgeon and skipper Harry Johnson
“Central Punjab play four-day cricket in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy,” Pidgeon explained. “It only has six teams so the competition is very tough with lots of international players which means Ali regularly turns out alongside Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Azhar Ali, Abid Ali plus Umar and Kamran Akmal.
“His first-class debut came aged 18 and he was then named in the team-of-the-tournament for the 2018 under-19 World Cup in New Zealand. He scored nearly 600 first-class runs last season and has two first-class hundreds to his name.”
On an excellent early-season Arlington Avenue pitch Zaryab added 68 for Wardens’ second wicket with Shiraz Husain (42) before taking full advantage of a short boundary to dominate his fourth-wicket alliance of 65 with Harry Butler.
Johnson looked in good form while chipping in a breezy 25 in the face of some excellent bowling from Leamington leg-spinner James Vaughan (4-49) and Tom Bate (3-44).
A target of 232 looked about par before Calcott tilted the game towards the hosts by smashing five sixes in a violent 26-ball 48.
His dismissal at 109-3 left Spa with plenty to do – but in acting captain Currill they had the man for the job. He survived twice being dropped to dominate a match-defining fourth-wicket stand of 89 with Dan Williams who added a useful 33 to the five dismissals he earlier claimed with the gloves.
This left Wardens on the wrong side of a six-wicket defeat, but nonetheless Johnson pronounced himself satisfied with the work-out and the promise shown by his club’s fifth overseas signing.
“We see Ali batting at No.3 where we hope he will play some long innings and by facing a lot of balls be someone we can bat around,” Wardens’ skipper explained.
“He’s a nice lad and a very organised batter who bowls useful off-spin so he should fit in very well while his previous experience in England will help him hit the ground running.”