Steelbacks boss Ripley praises Zaib but reflects on decision to keep Kleinveldt back

Saif Zaib made six from 10 balls in the Steelbacks innings (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saif Zaib made six from 10 balls in the Steelbacks innings (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

David Ripley admits it was a 'tough gig' for Saif Zaib to be thrown into on Tuesday night.

But the Steelbacks head coach has praised the youngster's bowling display in the two-run defeat to Birmingham Bears at the County Ground.

Zaib kept it tight during the Bears innings, bowling three overs for the concession of 19 runs and helping to run out Sam Hain for 28.

But the pressure was on with the bat as Zaib came in with Northants 146 for five, needing 27 to win the game with 20 balls remaining.

Rory Kleinveldt was kept back and after Zaib made six from 10 balls, the South African got his chance.

But it was too late for the Steelbacks, who needed three runs from the final ball but saw skipper Alex Wakely run out as the Bears bagged a vital win to go top of the North Group.

And Ripley concedes the County will look back on what might have been, especially in terms of the decision to send Zaib in before experienced campaigner Kleinveldt.

"Saif's earned a spot," Ripley said. "He's been playing nicely in the second team, doing a bit of everything.

"He's been hitting the ball really well.

"It was a tough time for him to go in, but we backed him to get bat on ball and run well to get Alex on strike and hopefully run twos.

"The other option was to send Rory in and maybe not getting him in for enough balls was maybe a contributing factor.

"It's something for us to reflect on.

"If it works, it works, but if it doesn't work then you look at what you maybe could have done and perhaps putting Rory Kleinveldt in with a bit of experience and power could have worked for us.

"We would have just lost out on a bit of running between the wickets, but if he goes four, six, four then no one's worried about that.

"It will be something we will chew over and it was a tough gig for Saif with the batting, but I thought he contributed with the ball."