Cricket: Sheffield and Phoenix United CC skipper Azeem Rafiq earns a short-term deal with Yorkshire CCC
Azeem Rafiq, the captain of Yorkshire League South side Sheffield and Phoenix United, has returned to professional cricket with Yorkshire after signing a deal until the end of the season.
Rafiq, a spin-bowling all-rounder, was released by Yorkshire in 2014 after becoming the first cricketer of Asian origin to captain the Tykes.
He returned to club cricket with Barnsley before making the move to United, and has impressed with recent performances in Yorkshire’s second team.
The 25-year-old is available to play across all formats and will go into the squad for tomorrow night’s NatWest T20 Blast clash with Notts Outlaws at Headingley.
Yorkshire’s director of cricket, Martyn Moxon said: “Azeem has played for the second team over the last couple of weeks and in light of his positive performances, we are delighted to offer him a new contract at Headingley.”
England stars Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow have been cleared to play against Notts and with Adam Lyth in stunning form - posting two hundreds in two days earlier this week - skipper Alex Lees has a welcome selection headache.
“We’ve got Rooty and Jonny coming into our side,” Lees said.
“But, going forward, that conversation needs to be had.”
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson is due to play in his first NatWest T20 Blast game of the summer after last Friday’s game against Birmingham was rained off.
Yorkshire squad: Bairstow (wicketkeeper), Ballance, Bresnan, Carver, Coad, Lees (captain), Lyth, Patterson, Plunkett, Rafiq, Rashid, Root, Willey, Williamson.
Meanwhile, young bowler Josh Shaw has been recalled from his loan spell at Gloucestershire with immediate effect.
The seam bowler has taken 19 first class wickets this season, including two four-wicket hauls.
“Josh’s loan spell at Gloucestershire has helped with his development this year and this is clear to see from the wickets that he has taken,” Moxon added.
“With Liam Plunkett and David Willey being called up to the England ODI squad and with injuries to Ryan Sidebottom, Matthew Fisher and Jack Brooks, our seam bowling resources are stretched.
“Therefore we have requested that Josh returns from his loan spell with immediate effect. An option is in place for Josh to return to Gloucestershire at some stage during the season.”
Lees is confident that back-to-back, Lyth-inspired wins in the Royal London One Day Cup can boost Yorkshire’s T20 form.
“We’ve lacked confidence in the first few games and have doubted ourselves as to how we’ve played our cricket,” he said.
“We wanted to play an aggressive brand of cricket and back each other. Now we have, that can only translate into our T20 cricket. It’s obviously doom and gloom when you lose the first few games, but we’ve shown glimpses. We’re in a good place now.
“Confidence goes a long way in short form cricket and I do believe we will be consistent throughout now. We can get a run of games together. It isn’t too late in the T20 and we still believe we can qualify.
“I always look forward to a Friday night at Headingley, and hopefully we can get off the mark.”