Yorkshire v Northants: Blow for Yorkshire as Sarfaraz Ahmed recalled by Pakistan

Going home: ICC Trophy-winning captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Going home: ICC Trophy-winning captain Sarfaraz Ahmed. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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YORKSHIRE director of cricket Martyn Moxon has spoken of his frustration after overseas player Sarfaraz Ahmed’s time at the county was cut short.

The Pakistan captain will make his final appearance in tonight’s must-win NatWest T20 Blast game against Northants at Headingley.

It’s disappointing, and it kind of sums up the situation that we have with international cricket.

Martyn Moxon

Along with all Pakistan centrally-contracted players, Sarfaraz has been recalled for fitness tests in Lahore ahead of a three-match T20 series between Pakistan and an International Cricket Council World XI.

The series, designed to hasten the return of top-flight international cricket to Pakistan after the terrorist attacks of 2009, was originally due to have been played late next month.

But it has been rescheduled as the Punjab government now want it done and dusted before a political election on September 17, while Pakistan are also preparing for a series against Sri Lanka in the UAE.

It means that Sarfaraz would be unavailable for the NatWest T20 Blast knockout stages should Yorkshire qualify, with the quarter-finals taking place from next Tuesday to Friday, with Finals Day on September 2.

Other counties are similarly affected, with Championship leaders Essex facing the loss of star pace bowler Mohammad Amir, while Pakistanis taking part in the Caribbean Premier League have also been withdrawn.

For Moxon, whose side must win tonight and then hope that other results go their way before the climax of the group stages tomorrow, it is further proof of the escalating difficulty in signing overseas players due to schedule clashes.

“It’s disappointing, and it kind of sums up the situation that we have with international cricket,” he said.

“It’s such a difficult problem to get overseas players for any length of time, and even for the short space of time that we were guaranteed to have Sarfaraz, suddenly the goalposts have changed and he’s not now available.

“It’s a common theme, I’m afraid, and it’s very frustrating. It frustrates all coaches when something unexpected is just dropped on you, and when you sign someone thinking they’re going to be available right to the final if need be, and then within a couple of weeks that’s changed, then it’s very difficult.”

Should Yorkshire progress, they cannot sign an overseas replacement for Sarfaraz, who was himself a replacement for Australian batsman Peter Handscomb after he was chosen for his country’s upcoming tour to Bangladesh.

Competition rules state that counties cannot draft in players for the knockout stages unless they have featured earlier in the tournament.

Yorkshire signed Sarfaraz specifically so that they could maintain the balance of their team, with the 30-year-old a like-for-like replacement for Handscomb as a wicketkeeper batting in the top five.

Should they qualify, they would likely have to recall specialist wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd.

Sarfaraz’s short stint at Headingley has strengthened Yorkshire’s ties with the Asian community but has so far had limited on-field impact.

He started well by top-scoring with 42 in a defeat to Derbyshire at Headingley but has since registered scores of 6, 3 and 2 and performed indifferently behind the stumps. “I thought he played brilliantly against Derbyshire in his first game when he got 40-odd,” said Moxon.

“Since then, he hasn’t got double figures, and obviously it would have been nice for him to get a few more runs, but these things aren’t guaranteed.

“But he played fantastically well in that first innings and I thought: ‘Wow, he’s going to tear it up for us.’

“It’s not quite happened yet, but, hopefully, we can get a good performance from him against Northants.”

Moxon has been impressed with Sarfaraz in general.

“He’s a good bloke, a really nice bloke, who’s fitted in well and got on with the job,” he added.

“He’s worked hard and practised hard, so I’ve no complaints there at all.”

Yorkshire could be boosted by the return of club captain Gary Ballance tonight after a broken left index finger.

Ballance has not played a first-team game since sustaining the injury against South Africa in mid-July, but he hit 69 for the Yorkshire seconds against Durham at Chester-le-Street yesterday. England all-rounder David Willey is set to play as he continues his recovery from a minor knee injury caused by bruising on the bone.

The start-time has been put back from 6.30pm to 7pm to accommodate television coverage.

Yorkshire (from): Ballance, Bresnan, Fisher, Kohler-Cadmore, Leaning, Lyth, Marsh, Patterson, Plunkett, Rafiq, Rashid, Sarfaraz, Willey.