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Yorkshire go into the Lions’ den
Yorkshire head into the Lions’ den in Johannesburg today, quite literally.
They are presented with the arduous task of taking on the in-form Highveld Lions on their home patch at the imposing Wanderers ground.
It is a group ‘B’ match the White Rose simply have to win if they are to keep alive their hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League t20 competition.
To qualify for the last four, they have to beat the Lions and Chennai Super Kings, in Durban on Monday, while hoping that Mumbai Indians don’t win both of their last two matches against Chennai and Sydney.
A bumper crowd is expected at the Wanderers as the Lions look to build on wins over Mumbai and Chennai during the last week.
But, as you would expect, Yorkshire are confident of springing another surprise to go with their two qualifying wins over UVA Next and Trinidad & Tobago.
“When we’re up against it we fight hard. That’s what we do best,” said Azeem Rafiq, one of the feistier characters in the Tykes’ camp.
“If we can beat the Lions, we’ll build up the momentum ahead of the trip to Durban, where we’ll have our big star name back in David Miller.
“We still believe we can do this. These guys are very good cricketers, but so are we.
“We’re an emerging side, and these teams might have seven or eight internationals in their ranks, but I’d like to think that we’ve got seven or eight future internationals.
“We’ve got to go there, enjoy it and put a show on.
“It will be a very tough game for us because they’re going to be at home. They’re a very good side who’ve been playing some really good cricket in the tournament.
“I feel like we’ve done some very good things in the tournament too. If we can carry that on, who knows?”
The Lions are captained by South African Test opener Alviro Petersen, and have the likes of Neil McKenzie, Zander de Bruyn, Dirk Nannes and Sohail Tanvir in their ranks.
Rafiq was Yorkshire’s best bowler during the washout against Mumbai on Thursday, claiming 2-36 from four overs just when his team needed him the most having lost Moin Ashraf and Ryan Sidebottom to injury.
“I was pretty pleased with my performance, apart from the last couple of balls,” added Rafiq, who was on the receiving end of two lusty blows from Harbhajan Singh.
“But that’s what happens in Twenty20 cricket because it’s small margins. To be out there performing against these guys gives me more confidence that I can go on to that next level.”
Meanwhile, Australian all-rounder Shane Watson has backed Mitchell Starc to shine for his country during their forthcoming Test series against South Africa.
Starc has taken the cricketing world by storm since impressing for Yorkshire during a spell as their overseas player this summer, and looks set to get the nod as Australia aim to return to number one in the world rankings next month.
“There’s no doubt that a left-armer who bowls 140kph and swings the ball back in with a bit of bounce at the Gabba and in Perth will be a huge asset for our team. He should be in,” said Starc’s Sydney Sixers team-mate.