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Peter Moores appreciates the value of a hungry player. Last summer, the Lancashire coach backed Farveez Maharoof's desire to play himself back into the Sri Lankan national side to work in the county's favour. This time, perhaps, he has landed Yasir Arafat at just the right moment.
The widely-travelled allrounder has already achieved the objective that drove Maharoof by earning a recall to the Pakistan T20 side for the first time in two years, taking an international career-best 3 for 18 against Sri Lanka earlier this month. Now he wants the chance to play at the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka this autumn and sees a good run in the FLt20 with Lancashire as the springboard he needs to clinch a place. But that's not his only motivation as Lancashire bid for a fifth appearance at finals day and a first title.
Arafat, 30, who has played T20 for nine teams in England, South Africa, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Pakistan, wants to shake off the habit of finishing second. Playing for Canterbury Wizards, he finished on the losing side against Auckland Aces in the HRV Cup T20 final in New Zealand in January. The following month he had to settle for the consolation prize in the Bangladesh Premier League as Barisal Burners lost to Dhaka Gladiators in the final.
Judging by last night's performance at Old Trafford, when the canny seamer put a further dent in Durham's prospects by taking 3 for 21, all the factors are coming together nicely. Formerly with Sussex, Kent and Surrey, Arafat is now most successful bowler in T20 cricket in England with 99 wickets - two more than Azhar Mahmood - and has moved into third place in the all-time T20 wicket-takers worldwide, behind only Dirk Nannes (179) and Alfonso Thomas (163) on 159.
Another Mahmood tires of sitting in the shadows
With 77 wickets, best figures of 4 for 21 and a strike rate of 18.8, Saj Mahmood's T20 record is not exactly shabby, yet the former England fast bowler is out of the Lancashire side more often than he is in these days and his frustrations are beginning to tell. The 30-year-old has played in just three County Championship matches this season and though he has figured in every CB40 match so far he lost his place in the FLt20 side after a disappointing display in the opening group match against Derbyshire, when Lancashire lost by the Duckworth-Lewis method after a last over in which Mahmood needed four attempts to bowl a legitimate third delivery, in doing so handing Derbyshire victory.
Sent off to play for Lancashire seconds against Northamptonshire at Milton Keynes, he confessed he was contemplating a move away from Old Trafford after 10 years at the club, although skipper Glen Chapple insisted he still had a future at Lancashire. "It’s pretty unforgiving when things aren’t going your way but Saj is a very valuable member of our squad," Chapple said. "I’m sure he’ll be back soon."
Player of the Day: Gary Keedy
On the end of a battering from Leicestershire at Old Trafford last Wednesday, when his four overs cost 53 runs, Lancashire's veteran left-arm spinner responded with a masterful performance last night, taking four Durham wickets for 25 on a much more helpful track. Suspicions that, at 37, Keedy's powers are on the wane seem premature, which Durham will hope is also true of the first of his four victims, Dale Benkenstein, who has managed just 292 runs in 19 innings across all forms of the game this summer, 60 of which came against a Durham MCCU side who were bowled out for 18. Benkenstein, who was 38 earlier this month, has a contract keeping him at the Riverside beyond his 40th birthday.
Northants need more of the White stuff
In desperate need of a win if only to boost morale after what has so far been a uniformly disastrous season in one-day cricket, Northamptonshire would presumably have chosen anyone but Somerset as their next opponents. In the FLt20 and the CB40, the Steelbacks have the unfortunate distinction of losing all seven of their completed matches. Somerset have themselves been dire in the longer of the shortened forms but in T20 they lead the Midlands/Wales/West Group with a 100% record, wash-outs aside.
What's more, the Somerset squad heading for Wantage Road this evening will be bolstered by the return of Kevin O'Brien and George Dockrell from international duty with Ireland and Richard Levi from his latest engagement with South Africa, while Craig Kieswetter, handily, has been released for extra match practice by England ahead of Friday's opening 50-over match against Australia. The only disappointment for the 2005 champions - runners-up for the last three seasons - is that their other South African, Albie Morkel, was reportedly injured in a T20 defeat against Zimbabwe on Sunday.
One abandonment and four straight defeats is the shape of the Northants T20 season, which is particularly frustrating for Cameron White, the Australia batsman they hoped might propel them to only a second appearance on finals day. White has so far scored 170 in four innings and been out only once. Just a shame about the rest of the guys.
Women on top
Kent's televised clash with Middlesex this evening has already captured public attention to the extent that a full house in Canterbury is expected. Kent and the ECB should be applauded nonetheless for giving supporters an extra incentive to turn up at the St Lawrence ground by turning the occasion into a double header by including the first T20 between the England Women and India as part of the entertainment. The international fixture is due to start at 3.10pm, followed by the FLt20 event at 7.10pm. Holders of tickets for either match are welcome to watch the other at no extra charge. Discounted 'print at home' tickets - priced at £20 for adults, £5 for juniors - can be bought online up to two hours before the start time for either game via the Kent CCC website.
Northants v Somerset, Northampton, 18.50 Kent v Middlesex, Canterbury, 19.10
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