Kenilworth Wardens were forced to settle for a draw from the Birmingham Premier League visit to Walsall despite a brilliant performance from Basit Zaman, writes Paul Smith.
The powerful right-hander destroyed the home attack to post a superb 134 as Wardens closed their 55 overs on 286 for nine.
Two late wickets in his first over of leg-spin then tossed a grenade into the hosts’ seemingly comfortable coast to a draw and forced their final pair to survive 19 balls to clinch a share of the spoils.
Makeshift opener Scott Stenning (47) joined Zaman in a second-wicket partnership of 150 that enabled the visitors to seize the initiative. He played a steady second-foil to Zaman’s onslaught, which included 26 from one over from Ladd-Gibson’s medium pace.
The introduction of spin on a slightly slow pitch steadied the Walsall ship. Slow left-armer Paul Byrne (2-63) was the pick of their attack but it was off-spinner David Powles that broke the partnership when Stenning dragged on.
Blake Maher (23) kept Zaman company until he was finally caught in the deep for 134, made from 130 balls with 16 fours and four sixes.
A late flurry from skipper Martin Donald (24) saw Wardens to their imposing total.
A second useful second-wicket partnership of the day between Mike Hingley (41) and Tim Maxwell (38) got Walsall’s chase away to a good start.
But captain Donald opted to give Brinder Phagura a lengthy opening spell and this tactic eventually paid dividends. The Unicorns seamer grabbed three wickets in quick succession to reduce the home team to 96 for four before spinners Stenning (1-65) and Rahul Trivedi, who claimed one for 26 from ten tidy overs on debut, combined to end their victory hopes.
Useful contributions from Ladd-Gibson (26) and Jack Warren (22) provided good support to Denham, who stroked seven boundaries in his 80-ball 58 before becoming the first of Zaman’s 52nd-over victims.
Wardens scented victory but a needless overthrow enabled Byrne to shield last-man Jonathan Moore from facing Maher’s final over and to ensure his team subsequently clinched a draw at 219 for nine.
Wardens 2nds suffered a first loss of the season in their home fixture with Walsall.
Having been put in to bat, Wardens struggled from the off, losing their first six wickets with less than 60 on the board before Harry Johnson (50) and James Madley (26) provided the only significant resistance.
Josh Topliss (5-38) and Sandeep Dhaliwal (2-28) did the early damage for Walsall before Dhaliwal returned to claim the vital wicket of Johnson.
Topliss and Samuel Mills (2-43) then finished off the tail to leave Wardens 145 all out in the 49th over.
Walsall’s response began cautiously, with two early wickets for Tom Brammer (2-16) supported by tight bowling by Nick Whiting (1-22) .
Opener Daniel Betty stood firm to make 46 before he was dismissed by home skipper Mark Pidgeon (3-34), after which Steven Plant (55 not out) played well while wickets fell around him to steer the visitors to a tense two-wicket victory.
Wardens 3rds went down to a 70-run defeat in their Cotswold Hills Division One clash at Norton Lindsey and Wolverton.
The hosts opted to bat first and, following excellent contributions from Richard Pozzi (67), Richard Blythe (50) and Sunny Singh-Nijjar (40), posted 248 for eight in their 45 overs.
Anthony Pidgeon led the bowling attack, taking four for 35 off his ten overs.
Wardens’ response got off to a good start, with Paul Jacob (61) and Fred Rex (30) putting on 94 for the first wicket.
However, once that partnership was broken, wickets fell at regular intervals, and with only James May (20) and Simon Gough (27) making significant contributions, the innings closed on 178 for nine.
Martin Perfect (4-47) and Richard Blythe (3-33) were the main wicket-takers.
Wardens 4ths took the opportunity of a free league weekend to play a friendly against Warwick CC 3rds.
After being put in, Wardens were dismissed for 111 in the 35th over, with Tom Mordey (33) and Stuart Jarvis (22) the only meaningful contributors.
Richard Ingram (4-28), Thomas Cox (3-30) and Umair Mushtaq (2-16) did the damage.
Although Wardens’ bowling proved to be an improvement on their batting, Yogesh Kumar (45 not out) and Simon McLellan (37 not out) eased their side over the line in the 30th over.