“I couldn’t be more pleased for him, I really couldn’t,” said Ali Maiden as he discussed James Wharton’s stunning Vitality Blast century against Worcestershire Rapids at Headingley last Friday night.
It is clear from speaking to Yorkshire’s assistant coach that the 22-year-old batter from Huddersfield has deserved his chance in the Vikings team who are currently bidding for back-to-back Finals Day appearances and a maiden title.
Now he has to make the most of it after crashing a stunning 111 not out off 56 balls against the Midlanders in what was only his fourth career T20 appearance and his second of the season.
Maiden was chatting to preview tomorrow’s home game against Leicestershire at Headingley (6.30pm), one which could see Yorkshire win their sixth successive match.
“Wharts is playing beautifully – as well as he’s ever played. But he’s played well all season,” he said.
“I spoke in an interview at the start of the season and he’d just got 50 against Leicester in the Championship.
“He probably should have got a hundred that day, and I was gutted for him because I knew we had two overseas batters – one in and another coming – and he was likely to miss out next game.
“But he had a big winter, and we put a lot of time into white ball cricket in the winter. He really bought into that, and it’s made a massive difference to him.
“The thing is with the way we approached the work over the winter, the lads in the second team have bought into it.
“He’s gone and played brilliantly for them, deserved his place in the firsts and went and did what he did on Friday. It was tremendous.”
Maiden, who shares assistant coaching duties with Kabir Ali and focuses on batting, continued: “He’s very strong on the off-side. He hits the ball beautifully through there. He also stands tall and hits down the ground. He hit one six off Pat Brown which was a great shot.
“He’s a big, tall, strong boy, and he’s got all the attributes. I just hope he rides the crest of the wave and keeps going.”
Yorkshire currently sit third in the North Group on 10 points after eight games, winning the last five in a row.
Leicestershire sit bottom of the table having only won two of eight. But those victories have come in their last three outings, either side of a defeat to Yorkshire at Grace Road.
If Yorkshire do win tomorrow, it would be only the second time in history that the county has won six T20 games in a row, the other coming in 2012 between June 12 and August 25.
“We’re flying in the Blast, playing really good cricket. We’re really clear with our plans,” said Maiden.
“On the flipside to how we were in the Championship at the start of the season, we feel we can win from any situation. It won’t always work out like that, of course it won’t. But that’s how it feels.
“We’ve got all bases covered. We have batting throughout the team. We have people who we can throw up the order if we lose wickets like Jonny Tattersall, we have others we can throw up the order when we need to strike it like Jordan Thompson.
“We’ve got seam bowling covered, death bowling, off-spin, leg-spin.
“You need your big players to stand up, and someone like Dawid Malan has done that unbelievably over the last few weeks.”