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Success for Yorkshire in Twenty20 cricket
Joint-top of the North Division table with three wins from five matches this season, stand-in captain Azeem Rafiq says things have never been better for Yorkshire in Twenty20 cricket.
The 21-year-old off-spinner has led the side for the last two matches against Durham and Nottinghamshire in the absence of the injured Andrew Gale (hip).
He navigated them to an impressive success over Durham at the Riverside on Friday before Sunday’s no result against Notts at Scarborough left the Tykes with seven points and level with the Midlands county at the summit.
Not only is Rafiq’s view an indication of how well Yorkshire are playing this summer, it is also an indication of how poorly the county’s teams have played in nine years of the game’s shortest format.
Boosted by the encouraging performances of overseas duo Mitchell Starc and David Miller, Yorkshire continue their campaign with a trip to Grace Road tomorrow to face struggling Leicestershire, the reigning champions.
“The supporters have probably never seen a Yorkshire side like this in Twenty20. I’ve been involved in the Twenty20 squad for four or five years, and I’ve never seen a side like it,” said Rafiq, who is the youngest player to have ever skippered the White Rose.
“We’ve had the big names before, we’ve had the Vaughans, Hoggards, Rana and Gibbs, but we’ve never had a team like this. It’s really exciting. Maybe this is our year.
“We’ve got a good team spirit at the minute, and we’re working really hard for each other. We’ve just got to keep that going. If we do, you never know. “Both our overseas professionals have been absolutely outstanding in this competition. They’re a couple of young lads, 23 and 22, really eager to do well. They’re really happy to be here. They’ve fitted into the dressing room like we’ve grown up playing age-group cricket with them. They’re class players, we all know that. David Miller has played for South Africa and Mitchell Starc for Australia. But, as people, they’ve been brilliant.”
Rafiq has captained England at under-15s and U19s level and Yorkshire’s second team and a first-team outfit while on pre-season tour of Barbados in March. But competitive first-team action is obviously completely different.
He acquitted himself well on Friday, although it is difficult to assess a performance in just 14 overs, which was all that were bowled on Sunday.
“Growing up and coming through the ranks, you want to do the captaincy, you believe you’ll do it one day, but you just never know. To get it so early on, I’m really privileged,” he added.
“I’ve never enjoyed my cricket as much as I am at the minute. That’s because of the lads we’ve got and the management structure we’ve got. It’s a good place to be, but things change quickly.
“I’m just filling in while Galey’s not fit. Hopefully, we can get him back as soon as possible because he’s a massive player for us in this format.”