LONDON, June 23: Azeem Rafiq became the first cricketer of Asian origin, and the youngest player in the county’s history, to captain Yorkshire in a senior match when he led them to victory in a Twenty20 match at Durham on Friday.

The 21-year-old Karachi born off-spinner was deputising for Andrew Gale after Yorkshire’s regular captain was ruled out with a hip-muscle injury.

Rafiq, who came to Britain as a boy, has captained throughout his time in cricket having led England’s Under-15 and Under-19 sides, the latter at the World Cup in 2010.

He has also captained Yorkshire’s second team this season and led first teams in pre-season friendlies, both at home and abroad.

Friday’s fixture saw Yorkshire win by 12 runs, with Rafiq taking one for 36 and catching South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs, who top-scored with 76 in a Durham innings where former England international Ryan Sidebottom led the visitors’ attack with four for 25.

Rafiq’s career has been beset by controversy.

Two years ago he was banned from all matches for a month after verbally abusing England Under-19 coach John Abrahams on Twitter when he was dropped from the side to play Sri Lanka after breaking a curfew.

Rafiq made his Yorkshire first-team debut in a Twenty20 match against Nottinghamshire in 2008 but it subsequently emerged he was not properly registered and, at the time, did not have a British passport.

That meant that under England and Wales Cricket Board regulations, he was ineligible to play for the county and Yorkshire were expelled from that season’s Twenty20 competition.

But Rafiq went on to score a first-class century for the county in only his second match.

Yorkshire used to insist only players born in the county could represent the club, a policy only abandoned in 1992 when India great Sachin Tendulkar became their first overseas signing.

The county boasts a large Asian population but the cricket club has been accused of not doing enough to promote players from Asian backgrounds.

However in recent years the likes of leg-spinner Adil Rashid, recently ousted from the first team by Rafiq, and paceman Ajmal Shahzad, who this season has joined arch-rivals Lancashire on loan, have played for Yorkshire.—AFP

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