Zaib century secures hard-earned draw for Northants against new leaders Surrey
The 24-year-old left-hander, restored to Championship duties for the first time since May, struck 124 in a 204-minute vigil.
Zaib was supported by Ricardo Vasconcelos’ 79 and 30 from Izaad Williams, the latter helping to add a priceless 71 for the eighth wicket before the hosts were bowled out for 426, Dan Worrall taking three for 69.
Facing a nominal target of 345 in 39 overs, Surrey understandably declined to take up the chase, closing on 48 for one.
Surrey return to the top of the table with the draw, though their lead over Hampshire is a slender eight points with two matches left.
Northamptonshire’s reward is the knowledge they are all-but guaranteed top division cricket in 2023 with this result
Buckinghamshire-born Zaib’s only championship half-century this season, a 65, came in the opening match against Gloucestershire in April, but thereafter a string of low scores saw him left out a month later.
A list-A century against Essex in the Royal London Cup suggested a return to form and he underlined that here with tough runs against a Surrey side with seven wins in the campaign.
The hosts were in a precarious position at the start of play with a lead of only 127, just five wickets intact and a new ball on the horizon.
Zaib 19 not out overnight and Vasconcelos, who resumed on 51 were busy from the start, running hard to maximise the overs against the old ball.
The would-be centurion took successive fours off Gus Atkinson in the ninth over of the day and by the time Surrey got the new cherry in their hand, the 100 partnership had been raised and Northamptonshire were almost 200 to the good.
Vasconcelos, who’d clubbed a Cameron Steel full toss to the mid-wicket fence, helped carry the stand to 127 before getting stuck on the crease and falling lbw to Worrall, unquestionably the pick of the visitors’ attack.
Worrall struck again to end James Sales’ vibrant cameo 20 minutes before lunch with the lead 234, but Zaib found another ally in the shape of Izaad Williams.
The South African quick edged his first ball just short of first slip but thereafter looked untroubled, proving an excellent foil for Zaib, who emerged with more aggression on the resumption.
A sumptuous boundary took him into the 90s and not long afterwards an on-drive off Atkinson brought the three runs needed to reach his century from 186 balls with eight fours.
Williams finally fell lbw to Kemar Roach after which Zaib opened his shoulders, hitting Ryan Patel for successive sixes before falling to a catch at long-leg attempting a third.
When Surrey batted a second time there was misery for former England opener Rory Burns who was run out for a single by Sales’ direct hit from point, but there were no further alarms before handshakes were exchanged at 4:30pm.
The draw means Northants stay fifth in the division one table, 15 points ahead of sixth-placed Yorkshire, who were beaten by Essex by one wicket on Wednesday.
The County return to action next Tuesday when they start their penultimate clash of the season against Somerset at Taunton.