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Rafiq hailed as leading light in Yorkshire t20 campaign
11:51am Wednesday 11th July 2012 in Sport
AZEEM RAFIQ has taken to Friends Life t20 captaincy like a duck to water in the absence of the injured Andrew Gale, according to Yorkshire’s director of professional cricket Martyn Moxon.
The 21-year-old off-spinner became the White Rose county’s youngest ever skipper for a t20 match against Durham at the Riverside last month, which signalled the first of five wins on the bounce in completed fixtures under his control.
Rafiq has had leadership experience before with England age-group teams and Yorkshire’s second XI during recent seasons, but it was a surprise when he was handed the top job in Gale’s absence especially with more experienced heads such as four-day stand-in Phil Jaques esconced in the t20 team.
One of the standout features of his captaincy has been his field placing, which was particularly evident as Nottinghamshire failed to post a competitive total at Trent Bridge last Thursday night.
“Fantastic in this form of the game, he’s been outstanding,” said Moxon, who also hailed an all-round team effort in secure a place in the quarter-finals for only the third time (fourth if you count the 2008 fiasco when Yorkshire were thrown out of the competition due to a registration issue surrounding Rafiq).
“He’s got a good cricket brain, and he keeps calm under pressure, which you need to do as a captain. We’ve got a set plan on how we want to play, which makes it easier for him in the sense of the bowlers knowing what we’re tying to do. But he’s a great motivator in the field.
“In the matches when he’s not been captain, he’s been a leading voice out in the field in any case.
“Azeem’s done really well as captain, but it has been a team effort. Everybody’s contributed somewhere to the performances.”
Yorkshire have earned comfortable wins over Durham and Lancashire along with completing the double over defending champions Leicestershire, before closing out the campaign with a victory over Derbyshire on Sunday.
But Moxon believes the six-wicket win over Notts, many people’s favourites for the competition, was their most impressive yet.
“Going to Notts and winning such an important game was a mark of where we’d come to,” added Moxon, the former Yorkshire and England opener.
“We’ve been playing some good cricket in Twenty20, but to win against a very good side in the manner we did is a big step forward for us. Hopefully we can continue. The lads are enjoying playing it, which I think comes out in the way they’re buzzing around in the field.”