YORKSHIRE have given Azeem Rafiq the chance to resurrect his career after re-signing the off-spinning all-rounder until the end of the season.
The 25-year-old had been playing for the second XI in recent weeks and has impressed enough to be given a contract.
Rafiq, who last played for the Yorkshire first team in 2014, lost form and confidence and was released by the club at the end of that summer.
But he has put those factors behind him as he attempts to rebuild a promising career.
Martyn Moxon, the Yorkshire director of cricket, said he is delighted to have him back on board.
“Azeem has been doing well for the second team in the last couple of weeks and, in light of his positive performances, we are delighted to have offered him a new deal,” said Moxon.
“He went away by himself during the winter and did some bowling in Dubai, and he’s come back and gradually built himself up, played some league cricket and felt really good.
“We spoke to him and asked him if he wanted to come and play in the second team, which he did, and he’s done really well.
“We’re going to keep him on until the end of the season and see where that takes us.”
Rafiq, who goes straight into the squad for tonight’s NatWest T20 Blast match against Notts at Headingley (7pm start), provides Yorkshire with a timely spin bowling option.
With first-choice spinner Adil Rashid about to take part in the one-day series against Sri Lanka, it means Yorkshire have an extra string to their bow in addition to left-armer Karl Carver.
“It’s just pleasing that Azeem has come back and is doing well again,” said Moxon.
“He’s an excellent cricketer, and hopefully now he can go on and fulfil that potential that we knew he had a few years back.
“He basically lost form and confidence, that’s the bottom line, and why that was is difficult to know.
“But when Azeem left it was on amicable terms, and it’s great, as I say, to have him back.”
Yorkshire have also welcomed back another bowler after recalling Josh Shaw from a season-long loan with Gloucestershire.
The 20-year-old pace man has returned to help Yorkshire through a personnel crisis that sees them without the injured Ryan Sidebottom, Jack Brooks and Matthew Fisher for next week’s Championship match at Durham, along with England players Rashid, Liam Plunkett and David Willey.
Shaw, who has captured 19 first-class wickets this summer, will play at the Riverside under the terms of his loan arrangement.
The pace attack there will be led by Steve Patterson and Tim Bresnan, with Jared Warner, Ben Coad, James Wainman and Will Rhodes in contention for the other seam bowling place.
“Josh’s loan spell at Gloucestershire has helped with his development this year, and that is clear to see from the wickets that he has taken,” said Moxon.
“With England call-ups and injuries, our seam bowling resources are clearly stretched.
“Therefore, we requested that Josh be returned from his loan spell with immediate effect.
“An option is in place for him to return to Gloucestershire later in the season.”
Yorkshire will have all their England players available for tonight’s match as they seek their first T20 win at the fifth attempt.
Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow join Messrs Rashid, Plunkett and Willey as Yorkshire look to get their campaign up and running, with that quintet also made available by England for Sunday’s T20 match against Derbyshire at Headingley due to rain having affected outdoor practice facilities in Nottingham ahead of the ODI series that starts at Trent Bridge on Tuesday.
Yorkshire go into the double-header with confidence high after back-to-back wins in the Royal London Cup.
They beat Northamptonshire by two wickets at Scarborough and then thrashed Lancashire by 242 runs at Old Trafford to record their biggest one-day win by a runs margin and inflict the Red Rose’s heaviest one-day defeat.
“We were delighted with the two wins and particularly with the manner of them,” said Moxon.
“We made a disappointing start in the Royal London Cup when we lost to Worcestershire, so to bounce back as we did, and for the lads to play as they did, was very encouraging and pleasing.
“Now we’ve got a good chance to get going in the T20 in the next few days, and it’s a big boost to have all our England players available.
“We’ve got a great opportunity to get a couple of wins on the board and hopefully we can do that.”
Yorkshire (from): Bairstow, Ballance, Bresnan, Carver, Coad, Lees (captain), Lyth, Patterson, Plunkett, Rafiq, Rashid, Root, Willey, Williamson.