Northants coach Ripley full of pride as patience pays off for Zaib

Northants head coach David Ripley admitted it was 'an emotional moment' when Saif Zaib scored his maiden century for the club in the thumping win over Sussex.

Sunday, 16th May 2021, 11:26 am
Updated Sunday, 16th May 2021, 11:28 am
Northants all-rounder Saif Zaib scored his maiden first-class century against Sussex
Northants all-rounder Saif Zaib scored his maiden first-class century against Sussex

The youngster, who turns 23 this week, hit a superb 135 as the County piled on the runs on their way to an emphatic innings and 120-run victory at Wantage Road last weekend.

Zaib's effort was overshadowed slightly by the fact that Ben Sanderson and Gareth Berg achieved the remarkable feat of taking 19 wickets between them, but for Ripley and the Northants players the left-hander's innings was equally as important.

Coming to the crease with the County in trouble at 60 for four in reply to Sussex's first innings of 106 all out, Zaib and skipper Adam Rossington, who hit 87, proceeded to take the game away from their visitors.

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A teenage Saif Zaib in action against the touring Australians at the County Ground in 2015

When Zaib was eventually dismissed Northants were on their way to being out of sight at 346 for six, and it was an innings every bit as crucial to the victory effort as Sanderson and Berg's wickets.

Having made his first team debut in a non first-class fixture against Durham UCCE as a 15-year-old in May, 2014, the century has been a long-time coming for the talented Zaib, who has been on the fringes of breaking into the first team in all formats for several seasons now.

Until last weekend, he hadn't quite made that breakthrough in the four-day game, but he certainly has now and Ripley, who has backed and kept faith with the player since he first broke on to the County scene back in 2014, admitted it was a special moment when he reached three figures.

"I saw him get a 50 on his debut against Durham University when he was 15 or 16, and although he was only a young fella, it kind of looked like that hundred would be too far away on what I saw that day, but it has been a bit of a roller-coaster," said Ripley.

Saif Zaib

"Saif has always been a nice lad, but he is maturing up as a person.

"He has not always been consistent with his practice, but he has had a good winter on his batting with John Sadler (batting coach) and I think he looks more secure, a little bit more calm at the crease.

"He got himself into the T20 team last year, so he achieved something there in getting ahead of some of the lads and getting on the team sheet in that side."

Ripley obviously believes in the High Wycombe-born player, who is also a more than capable left-arm spinner, as he has continued to offer him contracts over the course of the past seven years.

Saif Zaib

But he says it has also been a case of the coaches at the club finding the solution to getting the player to transfer his undoubted ability on to the field of play.

"I would like to think he has repaid some of the faith the club have shown in him," he said.

"But also Saib is a very talented young player and from our perspective it has been about how do we get the best out of him?

"It is a bit of a two-way street, in that a player could be letting himself down a bit, but the question we always have as coaches is 'why aren't we getting the best out of this guy?'

"It is always good to ask yourself that, and I think at the moment we are getting good value out of Saib, and it is great when you see young players achieve those kind of milestones.

"I find it quite emotional actually, whether it's handing out a County cap, handing out a debut cap, or seeing a debut hundred, it is great.

"I really felt a bit of pride there when Saib was sitting down and getting a pat on the back from all of his team-mates, it was really great."

Zaib was left out of the opening match of the season against Kent, but forced his way into the reckoning with a big ton for the second team and was selected for the defeat at Lancashire.

He then produced battling innings in the matches with Glamorgan and Yorkshire, before hitting the jackpot against Sussex, and Ripley now feels the player can really kick on and feed off the belief he will get from scoring that first century.

"I think you get belief from others, and he will have other people in the dressing room he will look at and think 'if he can do it, I can do it'," said the head coach.

"So you can get confidence from that, but there is nothing like getting over the line yourself, and it was very emphatic as well.

"He played so well, I don't think he gave a chance, and he looked calm and in control.

"He obviously wasn't cemented in the team at the start of the season, but there was plenty of competition for places.

"Saib went and banged out a big hundred in his first second team game, and he dug in at Headingley, and now with a hundred he looks like he could be in for a while.

"It is now up to others to try and nudge him out."