Off-spinner Azeem Rafiq has spoken emotionally and openly about a tough summer off the field following an impressive milestone on it during Yorkshire’s Vitality Blast win over Leicestershire on Tuesday evening.
Rafiq has revealed the tragic circumstance which has impacted upon his lack of first-team cricket for the White Rose this summer.
In the win over the Foxes, Rafiq claimed two wickets, the first of which was his 100th career T20 victim as Ned Eckersley was caught at short third-man.
Rafiq, 27-years-old, missed Yorkshire’s pre-season tour to South Africa in March for personal reasons and has only played first-team cricket in the ongoing Blast.
“That milestone (100th wicket) was massive for me,” he said.
“I knew about it last year and wanted to get it then, but it wasn’t to be.
“I needed six wickets coming into this year.
“It’s been a tough season for me. I haven’t played the amount of cricket I’d have liked. But these kind of milestones are things that you really look back on with a lot of satisfaction.
“I’ve had a pretty tough time personally, which I don’t think a lot of people are aware of.
‘It’s been hard for myself, my wife and my family.
“My wife was here, and that 100th wicket was for my little baby boy Alyaan who we lost (in May). It was all linked to why I didn’t go on pre-season tour.”
Understandably, Rafiq is now determined to concentrate on his cricket and help Yorkshire pursue their maiden T20 Blast title.
Tuesday’s win over Leicestershire was their fifth from nine matches and moved them into the North Group’s top four on 10 points. Remaining there after 14 matches would secure a quarter-final berth.
Kane Williamson starred with 77 off 41 balls as Yorkshire posted 187-5 and then defended it to win by 60.
“Kane was the difference between the two teams and showed why he’s one of the top three batsmen in world cricket at the moment,” said Rafiq.
“He’s made such a big impact in the few weeks he’s been with us.
“The crowd just see what he does out on the pitch, but there’s a hell of a lot of stuff he does off it.
“He’s a champion bloke who’s so good to learn from.
“I’m lucky to be sat next to him in the dressing room, and you pick up so much.”
Rafiq went on: “We needed that win because the last couple of games (against Derbyshire) haven’t gone according to plan.
“Chesterfield was really disappointing on Saturday because we felt like we played 90 percent of the game really well. But Twenty20 cricket can go that way. Someone has a good couple of overs and they can win the game.
“Monday was disappointing in a different sense because we just weren’t at it.
“Getting the opportunity to bounce back quickly can be a good thing.
“To get that performance against Leicester was really pleasing.”
Yorkshire now face a Northamptonshire side at Emerald Headingley on Friday who sit bottom of the North Group.
“It’s important we back that win up,” added Rafiq.
“The couple of days off will come in handy because there’s a lot of tired bodies in there, and we need to make sure we come back against Northants with the same energy we showed against Leicestershire.”
???? #YourYorkshire squad for this evening’s— Yorkshire CCC (@YorkshireCCC) August 3, 2018
VitalityBlast</a> vs <a href="https://twitter.com/NorthantsCCC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">NorthantsCCC (6:30pm). pic.twitter.com/UCpVOGKi51
- Northamptonshire is the only county against which Yorkshire have a better T20 record away (won three, lost one, tied one) than they have at home (won two, lost three)..
- Yorkshire have won each of the last three completed T20 matches between these two sides.
- Yorkshire’s highest T20 total (260 for four) and its highest T20 individual innings (Adam Lyth’s 161) were both scored against Northamptonshire on the last occasion these two counties met at Headingley in a T20 match – in 2017.
- Yorkshire have twice scored over 200 in a T20 match against Northamptonshire – both at Headingley – but their opponents’ highest total is 180 for five at Northampston in 2010.
- Two Yorkshire batsmen (Lyth and Herschelle Gibbs) have scored T20 centuries against Northamptonshire but the highest individual innings by their opponents is 76 by Richard Levi at Northampton in 2014.
- In 2017 Azeem Rafiq took five for 19 in Yorkshire’s T20 match against Northamptonshire at Headingley but the midland county’s best against Yorkshire is four for 23 by Andrew Hall at Northampton in 2011.
Potential batting milestones in Yorkshire v Northamptonshire on 3rd Aug 2018
GS Ballance needs 13 runs to reach 500 runs in Twenty20 matches at Leeds
KS Williamson needs 21 runs to reach 4000 runs in Twenty20 matches
BM Duckett needs 53 runs to reach 1500 runs in Twenty20 matches
JE Root needs 80 runs to reach 1500 runs in Twenty20 matches
RK Kleinveldt needs 94 runs to reach 1000 runs in Twenty20 matches
AJ Hodd needs 100 runs to reach 500 runs in Twenty20 matches
JA Leaning needs 117 runs to reach 500 runs in Twenty20 matches at Leeds
T Kohler-Cadmore needs 122 runs to reach 1500 runs in Twenty20 matches
AZ Lees needs 143 runs to reach 1000 runs in Twenty20 matches
Potential bowling milestones in Yorkshire v Northamptonshire on 3rd Aug 2018
NL Buck needs 1 wickets to reach 50 wickets in Twenty20 matches
Azeem Rafiq needs 2 wickets to reach 50 wickets in Twenty20 matches at Leeds
JA Brooks needs 6 wickets to reach 50 wickets in Twenty20 matches
S Prasanna needs 7 wickets to reach 100 wickets in Twenty20 matches
Vitality Blast statistics
Vitality Blast standings
T20 record: 4 Finals Day appearances
- 2009 SF
- 2013 W
- 2015 F
- 2016 W
Last season: 6th
Captain: Alex Wakely
Overseas Players: Rory Kleinveldt (SA), Seekkuge Prasanna (SL)
T20 record: Yorkshire have only reached Finals Day twice since the start of T20 cricket in 2003. They were beaten in the 2012 final by Hampshire at Cardiff and beaten semi-finalists by Durham at Edgbaston in 2016.
Last season: The Vikings finished fifth in the North Group with six wins and five defeats. They also played out a Roses tie away at Lancashire and had two No Results. That they didn’t qualify was pretty amazing given they topped 200 four times with the bat. They just lost a couple of key games on the road.
Captain: Steve Patterson.
Overseas players: Yorkshire are set to go into the Blast with just one overseas, the New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who has returned to Emerald Headingley for a fourth spell. He will play nine group games from July 20 and a potential quarter-final.
The White Rose had signed towering fast bowler Billy Stanlake, but he was pulled out by Cricket Australia in May. They have opted not to replace him.
Register below for our free live streaming service.