The Pakistan fast bowler was famously hit for a huge six here by England’s Liam Livingstone last summer which cleared the three-tiered Emerald Stand, now The Howard Stand, and landed on the adjacent rugby field.
Nor will Rauf forget his second appearance at the ground either – and this time for the right reasons. On his Yorkshire home debut, the 28-year-old – who took nine wickets in the first two County Championship matches on the road – returned 5-65 from 14 overs and was cheered from the field in the late April sunshine.
“It was a very exciting moment for me when I took the five wickets,” said Rauf, who helped to bowl out Kent for 291 before watching Dawid Malan (152) and Harry Brook (131 not out, a new career best) continue their fine starts to the season by helping Yorkshire to 326-5 at stumps on day two.
“I’m really enjoying it here and all the guys are really helping me. Last time I played here Livingstone hit me for a very good six – he’s a very good batsman, he’s smashed every bowler – but this time was better for me.
“County cricket is very hard, but I am trying my best for the team and to improve my skills, and it was great for me to hear the crowd cheering.”
There was no more symbolic sight, perhaps, following the recent events that have rocked Yorkshire cricket, than to see Rauf lead off the side to a standing ovation.
Supporters have instantly taken him to heart, appreciating his exuberance and whole-hearted attitude. Like many Pakistan fast bowlers, brought up on the flat, unyielding pitches of his homeland, Rauf is strong of mind and sturdy of body. He has stamina aplenty and ticker, too; he has settled in well at Clean Slate towers.
In sunny and slightly warmer weather than the first day, Rauf helped to bring about a swift conclusion to the Kent first innings after they resumed on 270-6. Bowling from the same end that Livingstone lofted him for perhaps the biggest six ever hit, Rauf had Grant Stewart jabbing behind the day’s sixth ball and, after Matt Milnes was leg-before driving at Jordan Thompson, he yorked Nathan Gilchrist with a Waqar Younis-esque toe-crusher.
When Thompson slipped one through the defence of last man Matt Quinn, Kent had lost their last four wickets in 34 balls and half-an-hour; considering they had been 227-4 at one stage, it was a costly collapse.
Before a crowd of around 2,500, the cricket went through an attritional period in the lead-up to lunch but was no less compelling for that. Kent’s efficient as opposed to illustrious attack kept things tight, Grant Stewart, the Australian-born seamer, delivering an opening spell that literally could not have been more frugal: 6-6-0-0.
It was bowling designed to force mistakes and two duly materialised before the interval. Dimuth Karunaratne, the Sri Lanka captain also making his Yorkshire home debut, pushed forward at Gilchrist and was caught behind, and George Hill, fresh from his maiden first-class hundred last week, and having started here with two lovely leg-side boundaries off Gilchrist, left a straight one from the same bowler that nailed him in front.
A lunchtime score of 23-2 from 21 overs highlighted the accuracy of the visitors’ bowling, a score that became 23-3 when Adam Lyth was adjudged caught down the leg-side off the first ball of the afternoon session.
Matters were not then looking good for the hosts but events were somewhat put into perspective when a medical emergency caused a 30-minute stoppage, plus the loss of 10 overs, when a male spectator was taken ill on the lower part of the North-East Stand not far from the scoreboard. The person was later said to be responsive. By then, Yorkshire had embarked on a recovery that was to mirror and ultimately outstrip that of Kent, who had been 20-3 before a century stand between Daniel Bell-Drummond and Jordan Cox.
Malan and Brook, Yorkshire’s own fourth-wicket pair, responded with knobs on, showing all their class, guile and range of shots. Malan drove superbly through the covers – when doesn’t he? – and Brook pulled and cut with aplomb. Twice Brook lofted spinner George Linde for six en route to his sixth first-class century and second of the season, reached from 138 balls with 11 fours. Malan got there from 136 deliveries with 14 fours before feathering behind an attempted pull of Quinn, who followed up by trapping Harry Duke.
Malan and Brook’s stand of 269 was the highest for any wicket for Yorkshire against Kent, eclipsing the 267 of Wilf Barber and Len Hutton for the first wicket here in 1934.