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Rafiq dreaming of Lord's final

— 17 May 2017

Two Yorkshire stars are dreaming of silverware in two different one-day competitions over the next couple of months.

Azeem Rafiq, who has just signed a new one-year extension to his contract at Headingley, is hoping the county can progress to the Royal London One-Day Cup final at Lord’s in early July.

David Willey, meanwhile, currently in Spain with England’s one-day squad on a short training camp, is targeting national success in the forthcoming ICC Champions Trophy, which begins at the start of next month.

Rafiq was instrumental in Yorkshire’s RL50 win over Leicestershire at Headingley last night with a blistering 52 not out off 30 balls that big hitting Willey would have been proud of.

He then struck two important blows with his off-spinners as the visitors failed to chase down 259 in 45 overs, leaving Yorkshire with their sixth group win and second place in the table.

They now move on to face the third team in the South in a play-off tie at Headingley on June 13 for the right to advance to the semi-finals later in the week.

The Vikings are three wins away from their first piece of limited overs silverware since the 2002 C&G Trophy.

“We can all dream,” said the 26-year-old. “We have to dream.

“Second to playing international cricket, it’s what you want to be part of.

“You want to win the County Championship, but a Lord’s final has a lot of history, and it would mean the world to us to get there.

“At the start of the comp, if anyone had said we’d win six out of eight, I would have snapped their hand off.

“More than the wins, the way we have gone about our cricket has been impressive. The crowds will back that up.

“We have really enjoyed it, we have played entertaining cricket and left everything out there for the cause.

“It’s nice to get the wins. But we have been brilliantly led by Gary Ballance – I couldn’t say enough about how brilliant he has been.

“Everyone sees what’s happening on the field, but off it, he’s been absolutely phenomenal.”

Should Yorkshire reach Lord’s, it may be that the likes of Willey, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid and Joe Root will all be available.

Hopefully by then Willey have a Champions Trophy winning medal around his neck.

It would be England’s second ICC global success after the 2007 World Twenty20 win in the Caribbean, the final for which took place seven years ago yesterday.

Eoin Morgan’s men have been installed by many as the tournament favourites ahead of Australia, India and South Africa.

All-rounder Willey, who played in England’s World T20 final defeat to the West Indies in India last year, said: “We might be favourites this summer.

“To be fair, in the World T20 I don’t think we were considered among the top four, but I always felt we were favourites.

“We have an unbelievable squad with match-winners throughout.

“I have really enjoyed playing under Eoin Morgan.

“At any stage of any game of any competition, he’s no different.

“When he’s at mid-off, and you are there at the top of your mark with your beans going, it’s great to bounce ideas off him. He brings you down and gives you clarity.

“He’s been brilliant leading us, and all the experience we have built up under him in the past two years has been invaluable.”

Willey will hope to be in action for England against South Africa at Headingley next Wednesday.

It is the first of three ODIs against the Proteas before the start of the Champions Trophy against Bangladesh on June 1.

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