T20 Blast: Rafiq stars as Yorkshire claim Roses spoils against Lancashire

Azeem RafiqAzeem Rafiq
Azeem Rafiq
Superb boundary catching helped Yorkshire Vikings to a thrilling five-run victory with two balls to spare over Lancashire Lightning in the NatWest T20 Roses clash at Headingley.

Chasing a 142 target in a match reduced to 18 overs-a-side because of rain before the start, Lancashire’s last wicket pair needed 12 off the final over but, after Stephen Parry had leg-glanced Steve Patterson for four, he edged the next ball to wicketkeeper Andy Hodd.

The victory was only Yorkshire’s second of the season in the competition but it took them to within one point of Lancashire and kept alive their slim hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

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All but one of Yorkshire’s eight catches were taken in the deep and not one chance was grassed, Adam Lyth hanging on to three of them, including a breathtaking diving effort at deep backward square leg to get rid of opener Jordan Clark.

But the man-of-the-match award went to spinner, Azeem Rafiq – who also plays for Sheffield and Phoenix United in Yorkshire League South – whose four overs cost him only 20 runs for the wicket of Keith Brown.

The decisive over was probably the 11th when Liam Livingstone plundered three consecutive sixes of Karl Carver who then hit back with two wickets in two balls to send back both Livingstone and Steven Croft to leave Lancashire on 87 for five.

The visitors never really recovered and Patterson finished with three for 23 with Tim Bresnan, Will Rhodes and Carver each taking two wickets.

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Not for the first time in one-day cricket this season, the most powerful and adventurous of Yorkshire’s batting came from Lyth and after he was out for 23 in the fourth over, nobody was able to take complete command against Lightning’s nicely balanced attack of pace and spin.

Put in to bat, Vikings were given a rousing start by Lyth who cut Nathan Buck’s first ball for four and then tore into Clark with a four and two legside sixes in an over which cost the bowler 21 runs.

But after receiving 14 balls and smacking two fours and two sixes, Lyth’s miscued drive was held by Luke Procter and in Buck’s same over Alex Lees aimed straight to Livingstone at cover.

Yorkshire were 32 for two and although Kane Williamson and Leaning added 44 together they were unable to regain the early momentum and it was 5.5 overs before Leaning hit the first boundary since Lyth’s second six.

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Leaning drove Stephen Parry over long on for six but was bowled by Clark for Vikings’ top score of 29 and just when Williamson was starting to find the boundary he had his off-stump knocked back by Parry.

Wickets went down at regular intervals and it was left to Rhodes to move things forward with a perky unbeaten 24 from 14 deliveries with three fours.

Buck was Lightning’s most successful bowler with three for 25 while Edwards had two for 24 but the three spinners played an equally important part in keeping it tight.

Yorkshire captain Lees said: “This win was a long time coming but we have given something back to the Yorkshire faithful and we will take a lot of confidence from it.

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“Our batsmen started brilliantly and although we lost two wickets in an over, including myself, we recovered and at the half way stage I felt that we were back in the game.

“The fielding was exceptional and I believe this result can kick-start us in the competition. We have a real sense of going forward.”

Steven Croft said: “It was a bit of a sticky wicket but if we had kept up with the rate and batted through I believe we would probably have won.”