Muhammad Azharullah and Junaid Khan. There surely won’t be many better new ball partnerships anywhere in England than the one Hoylandswaine have unleashed on this season’s Huddersfield League Premiership division.

“I’m flattered that you think it could be the best,” smiled Azharullah, the former Northamptonshire Vitality Blast winning seamer who is now a high performance coach in Yorkshire’s pathway system.

“But it is a good partnership, I’m not going to lie.”

Azharullah, 38, is taking the new ball with Khan, the Pakistan left-arm seamer with a 107 international caps and the best part of 200 wickets to his name between 2011 and 2019.

Khan, the ex-Lancashire and Middlesex man, is a former team-mate of Azharullah’s in Pakistan domestic cricket, a link which helped defending champions Hoylandswaine convince him to join their pursuit of silverware in 2022.

“He is married with his wife in Bradford,” explained Azharullah. “He was over here already – he spent the winter here and is moving to England.

“We missed out on an overseas player, and he was the obvious one we could go to next. He’s a friend of mine, and it’s nice to get back with him again.”

Hoylandswaine’s strength doesn’t end there. They are captained by Leicestershire white ball all-rounder Arron Lilley and also have former Durham spinner Max Morley in their ranks, the latter who also won the ITV reality show Love Island in 2015.

“We also have Umer Yaqoob who follows myself and Junaid, and he’s a very good bowler,” said Azharullah.

“We tried last year to go for all four trophies, and we want to have another go.”

There will no doubt be many batters around Huddersfield who get their toes blown off by yorker specialists Khan and Azharullah who disagree with the latter’s statement that their involvement is “good for the Huddersfield League”.

But, seriously, it can’t be anything but good. It raises the standard and profile of league cricket in the county, as it does for example in the Yorkshire Premier League South with Barnsley Woolley Miners signing Australian Big Bash League winning batter Jake Weatherald.

Hoylandswaine have made the ideal start to their Premiership campaign, winning their opening games against Armitage Bridge and Barkisland on the last two Saturdays.

Azharullah claimed five wickets in each game, while 32-year-old Khan recorded hauls of four and three.

On Saturday, the former Northants man removed Barkisland duo Matthew Weston and Harry Finch, who are on Yorkshire’s Academy and Emerging Players Programmes respectively and who Azharullah coaches.

“I got them in my pocket,” he laughed. “In all seriousness, I’ve spent a lot of time with those guys in the winter, coaching them and bowling at them. They are high-class cricketers who are going through their learning process, and facing bowlers like Junaid will be good for them.”

Weston, Finch and their 10 other Academy and EPP contemporaries are back playing for their clubs following Yorkshire’s decision to withdraw the Academy team from the YPL North competition.

“I think it’s a good decision,” said Azharullah. “The players have a responsibility to go and perform for their clubs now.

“The experience they will gain from that, facing a variety of attacks and also playing with some good senior players will only help their development.”

Azharullah, who was Yorkshire based even through his time winning Blast titles in 2013 and 2016 with Northants, admitted he is loving the opportunity to work with the county’s brightest young stars at Headingley.

Appointed to the county’s coaching staff in January, he is currently undertaking his ECB Level Four coaching qualification with a specialisation in fast bowling.

“I’m very fortunate to be working with these guys,” he added. “It’s a very strong Academy here, and there is so much talent beneath that as well.

“When I get the chance, the odd day here and there, I will also go to the second XI and first XI and help them out. That’s really good for my own development.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity Yorkshire have given me.”

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