Jack Haynes praised the calming influence of Azhar Ali as the Worcestershire CCC batter scored his maiden first class century during the drawn LV=Insurance County Championship match with Durham at New Road.
Haynes reached three figures in red-ball cricket for the first time after coming so close last summer when run out on 87 backing up at the non-striker’s end versus Warwickshire and then, on 97, caught on the boundary versus Derbyshire.
But the Worcester-born player made no mistake this time and, in similar fashion to when Ed Barnard scored his maiden hundred, says it is “a monkey off his back.”
Pakistan star Azhar batted throughout much of the final day with Haynes, and, although he was dismissed for a fine 92, he played a big part in shepherding his colleague towards his century.
Haynes said: “Azhar was brilliant to bat with. We just sort of broke it down into five over chunks, and to have someone of his class at the other end, was so much of a calming influence.
“I’m delighted he also got some runs, and I would have loved him to get a century as well, but I’m sure one will be around the corner.
“I couldn’t have asked for someone better to bat with. He is so relaxed, and nothing seems to faze him. I certainly enjoyed batting with him. He was a great help to me.”
An edge down to the third man boundary led to Haynes punching the air, being embraced by Club Captain Brett D’Oliveira and receiving a standing ovation around New Road.
He said: “How does it feel to get that first century? Very relieved. It has been a little bit longer than I would have liked but very happy.
“I thought I had nicked it straight to second slip, so I was a bit worried at first but pretty pleased when it went through.
“Does having being so close before prey on your mind? Quite a lot. I was thinking hit it on the floor and don’t get run out backing up! They were the two things going through my head at that time.
“I was just trying to keep it sensible, not do anything stupid, and I thought ‘if I get a ball in the right area, I might be able to get it away’, but luckily I got an edge, and it flew down to third man. A bit lucky, but sometimes you need a bit of luck.
“I had found a couple of ways of getting out. Last year was particularly disappointing to get myself out a couple of times in some pretty interesting ways, and now delighted to get over the line.
“Was I nervous in the 90s? Yes. We’ve got heart rate monitors now, and I think I would have jumped up a few BPM (beats per minute)!
“Very nervous, but I’ve got a monkey off my back now, and hopefully, it is the kick start to getting more centuries.
“As a Worcester man, it is a special moment. It is something you dream of growing up.
“Brett said, ‘just enjoy the moment’ because I think he knew how frustrating it has been for me over the past year or two.”
The efforts of Haynes and Azhar on the final day were largely responsible for securing a draw.
But Haynes was also quick to praise the Worcestershire lower-order whose runs and time at the crease during the first innings was crucial.
Haynes said: “They are a testing attack, they keep coming all day, and, to be fair to them, they put in a really great shift.
“They didn’t let up, and the pace stayed pretty much the same all day, so it was a good test.
“To force them to bat again, and take time out of the game because of the time we batted in the first innings, was crucial in us drawing the game.
“It was a crucial knock from (Joe) Leach following on from a great partnership between Ed (Barnard) and Brett (D’Oliveira).
“But the last wicket stand by Ben Gibbon and Adam Finch was also outstanding.
“The last two faced 70-80 balls each and really put them under the pump a little bit and made them come back out and bat.”