Wahab Riaz, Kent’s new Pakistani signing, has made himself an instant favourite with the county by hitting vital runs in a victory against Glamorgan and then taking the first hat-trick of his career in another Friends Life t20 win over Gloucestershire.
Kent also had their other Pakistan international, the veteran all-rounder Azhar Mahmood, to thank at Beckenham when they overcame a Gladiators team including Muttiah Muralitharan, Hamish Marshall and Kevin O’Brien.
In only his second game for the Spitfires and his first on Kentish soil Riaz bagged his memorable hat-trick during an amazing seven-ball stint of 5 for 1 which helped to restrict Gloucestershire to 166.
His exploits followed a nervy and wayward start during which the 25-year-old winner of seven Test caps leaked 13 in his opening over and aborted his run-up four times in the space of seven deliveries.
Then Mahmood followed up with a stunning 54-ball century that saw Kent home to victory by eight wickets and with seven balls to spare. For good measure, Mahmood hit the winning boundary to finish unbeaten on 106 to take the lead in this year’s race for The Walter Lawrence Trophy awarded for the fasted hundred of the summer.
It was Mahmood’s t20 career-best and Kent’s second ton in the competition following Andrew Symonds’ unbeaten 112 against Middlesex at The Mote in Maidstone in 2004.
As for Riaz, his hat-trick was also Kent’s second in the competition alongside Ryan McLaren’s memorable treble in the Edgbaston final of 2007 – also against Gloucestershire.
Talking afterwards, a delighted Mahmood said: “It was tough conditions but I was seeing the ball well and the little bit of rain helped because Murali was always moaning about the wet ball.
“I was a bit lucky early on and a few mishits fell kindly for me, but you need that in Twenty20, especially when you’re chasing at nine an over and you never know when the game will stop because of rain. It was tough, but we kept an eye on the Duckworth/ Lewis and thankfully kept ticking the board over.” Mahmood added 135 for the second wicket with Joe Denly (50) – a Kent competition record for any wicket.
“This hundred feels very special to me because last year I was batting down the order and didn’t get enough chances to bat. I was getting a tough time at home too because my wife kept saying ‘Why aren’t you batting higher? What’s going on?’ so it was important to take this chance and to see us through to the victory.
“This game is all about momentum. We won in Cardiff and came here to beat a dangerous Gloucestershire team and I hope with the confidence that brings we can keep the run going.
“It was also nice for me to show Wahab Riaz that I can still play a bit. We were in the gym the other day and he was showing me some new exercises. I told him you can do those and then I’ll show you all my routines as well. It got quite competitive, but in a fun way, and we did the same out there; it felt good to have a partner in the team.”
Taking up the story of his troublesome run-up, Riaz said: “It was all down to the slope and the wind blowing across the ground, because I felt I was struggling to reach the wicket and then, when I did eventually bowl, I couldn’t get off the wicket quickly enough.”
Having changed to the Crystal Palace End and switched to bowling around the wicket, Riaz had Ed Young caught behind either side of bowling Chris Taylor and Richard Coughtrie to complete his maiden hat-trick.
“I’m not used to bowling in that much wind and found it really annoying and when the umpire (David Millns) warned me because I was landing in the danger area I knew I had better bowl around the wicket. That proved much better for me.
“I did say thank you to the umpire afterwards for warning me and making me bowl from the other side. I got into a good rhythm after the first wicket and just seemed to be able to do what I wanted to with the ball after that. It was nice to get my rewards and to get the first hat-trick of my life; it was one of
those days I will never forget.”
Not content with one treble, Riaz then bowled Alex Gidman and David Payne in his next over and, with last man Muralitharan on strike, found himself with a remarkable opportunity for a second hat-trick.
He added: “I knew he would try to give himself room to hit me ‘inside out’ over cover, so I tried to bowl that in-swinging yorker again, but it went too much and so I couldn’t pull it off a second time.”