New boy rewarded for decade of toil

Sydney-born batsman joins some greats of the game in scoring a century on first-class debut for Tasmania

It took him the best part of a decade and a move from the mainland to push his case, but Charlie Wakim today announced his arrival as a first-class cricketer with an emphatic bang.

The New South Wales-born batter, playing his first innings in the JLT Sheffield Shield having honed his skills in Sydney and furthered his apprenticeship in Hobart, scored a near flawless 160 for Tasmania against a high-quality South Australia pace attack at Adelaide Oval.

Wakim scores Shield century on debut

The 27-year-old became only the second Tasmania batter after opener Neville Jelich (who scored 126 against New South Wales in 1987) to post a century in his maiden Shield innings for the Tigers.

He also joins a select group that includes former West Indies legend Rohan Kanhai (in a tour game against New Zealand in 1969-70) and ex-Australia all-rounder Michael Bevan (2004-05) as players to have scored a ton on their first-class debut in Tasmania colours.

Having helped his adopted state to a first innings lead of 210, which had been reduced to 78 with eight SA wickets intact by the end of day three, Wakim acknowledged that the tireless work he's put into his game over the past 10 years was crucial to today's success.

But he added that despite having played just three List-A games and a solitary T20 match (for the Hobart Hurricanes in Abu Dhabi last year) his belief that he could make it to first-class level had never waned.

"You still get rewards for numbers on the board, and if you keep stacking them on they can't really ignore you," he said of the recent scores he's produced in Premier Cricket and Toyota Futures League that led to his eventual Shield selection.

Image Id: 8A02267B0BE84F81B81E300D356B60AC Image Caption: Michael Bevan was the last man to score a ton on Tasmania debut // Getty

"It put me in good stead to make my debut when I'm probably more in control of my game.

"So I held the faith and kept believing, and I'm just stoked that it's all sort of come to fruition.

"You always back yourself in, but I suppose that was a bit of a dream come true.

"It was great fun, and I loved every minute of it."

Wakim grew up virtually in the shadows of the Sydney Cricket Ground, in the inner suburb of Kensington and played his junior cricket with Randwick before progressing to the first XI at University of New South Wales.

The right-hander was among Sydney Premier Cricket's leading scorers a few seasons ago, and on the strength of those efforts he became part of the Sydney Sixers' academy squad ahead of BBL|05 in 2015-16.

Image Id: 0D619F5E651347B98860590BB0B1FA3B Image Caption: Wakim celebrates a wicket in SA's first innings // Getty

However, the perennial surplus of batting talent pushing for places in the Blues' line-up led him to follow the lead of fellow New South Welshmen Jordan Silk and Jake Doran as he signed with Tasmania prior to last summer.

He made his one-day debut for the Tigers in last season's JLT One Day Cup competition, but lost his place in that squad when now Test captain Tim Paine returned from T20 duties with the men's national T20 outfit in India.

Wakim was finally added to Tasmania's Sheffield Shield squad for their second-round match against Western Australia last October, on the strength of his performances as captain of the Tigers in the Toyota Futures League.

In particular, it was his returns of 88 and 48 against a NSW Metro attack led by Test stars Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood – both returning from injury at the start of this season – that carried him to the cusp of first-class selection.

Although he doubts that examination was more searching than tackling South Australia's swing trio Chadd Sayers, Joe Mennie and Nick Winter armed with a Dukes ball, across more than a day of sweltering heat at Adelaide Oval.

Image Id: 5D11EF643959478EBA6B35524618B746 Image Caption: Wakim celebrates reaching three figures // Getty

"I think with the Dukes ball you never really feel like you're in," said Wakim, who is of Lebanese descent but has adopted 'way-kim' as pronunciation of his surname.

"I think it keeps you switched on a little longer than with the Kookaburra ball.

"That helped me in a way to keep really focused, but obviously Hazlewood and Cummins are two of the best bowlers going around so it was also pretty handy to get a few against them."

Wakim's 160, the highest individual Shield score by a Tasmania batter this summer, occupied almost eight hours (461 minutes) and 333 balls as his team piled on 467 from 165.2 overs.

Having ground the Redbacks' four-pronged seam attack into the dust during his 115-run fourth-wicket partnership with Doran (47), Wakim then played a secondary role as Ben McDermott put SA's flagging bowlers to the sword.

After Doran was stumped from the occasional off-spin of Travis Head, Australia T20 representative McDermott clubbed 63 from 67 deliveries including a pair of sixes from Jake Weatherald's even-less threatening wrist spin.

Weatherald, whose three overs yielded 0-30, was one of nine bowlers employed by the Redbacks with only veteran batter Callum Ferguson and keeper Harry Nielsen missing out on a stint with the ball.

Wakim eventually fell to a tired drive that barely carried to mid-off, at which point Tasmania's tail promptly succumbed to the third new-ball that triggered a collapse of 4-23 in 27 deliveries.

SA then immediately lost opener Conor McInerney in the opening over of their second innings after he shouldered arms to Jackson Bird, and was bowled.

When Jake Lehmann was adjudged lbw for 11 a short time later, SA appeared destined for another of the top-order implosions that has dogged their Shield campaigns over the past two years.

But an unbroken 116-run partnership between Weatherald (64 not out) and skipper Head (45 not out) will enable them to resume the final day tomorrow carrying hopes of fighting out a draw.