Arafat ready for Roses battle
Yasir Arafat may be one of the world's more well-travelled Twenty20 stars, but he is well aware of the significance attached to tonight's local hostilities.
The 30-year-old Pakistan all-rounder is set for his first taste of a Roses match when he travels as part of a Lancashire side that will attempt to derail Friends Life t20 North Group pacesetters Yorkshire at Headingley Carnegie.
The old rivals do not meet in the LV= County Championship this term following the White Rose’s relegation last summer, meaning there is a palpable intensity around the clash, which is followed seven days later by a return at Old Trafford.
“We have two crunch games coming up,” Arafat told ecb.co.uk. “Lancashire against Yorkshire is the most important game of all.
“I already knew that it’s a very big rivalry, but since I’ve been here, everyone has talked about that game and this week people from the press are talking to me about playing our arch rivals.
“We’ll try to perform as we have done in the previous games and see what the outcome is.”
A performance in such a vein may well suffice as Lancashire approach the encounter in great form.
The Red Rose have won three of their last four outings, with only a washout against Nottinghamshire last week ruining the sequence.
Recent eight-wicket wins over Leicestershire and Durham have come bristling with an authority largely absent from the opening weeks of the season, when Lancashire made a haphazard start to their title defence in the championship.
“We had a bad start results-wise in the first game (at Derbyshire), which we lost on Duckworth/Lewis,” said Arafat.
“Now, we are looking very special with the batting. To chase 180 with two wickets down in 19 overs against Leicestershire was marvellous.
“They are already very experienced with players like Glen Chapple and Gary Keedy and so many others - Stephen Moore and (Steven) Croft. Everybody plays top cricket in T20 here. They are already in great shape and went to finals day last year.”
In the latest victory against Durham on Monday, Arafat - currently with his fourth county - became the leading wicket-taker in domestic T20 history as figures of 3-21 took his number of scalps to 99.
One of the new breed of globe-trotters in the shorter form, his career tally stands at 159, third in the all-time list behind Dirk Nannes and Alfonso Thomas on 179 and 163 respectively.
“I didn’t know during the game, but, fortunately, when I finished Peter Moores told me about the record and it was a great feeling,” he admitted.
“For the last 18 months now, I think I’ve been around number two or number three in the world and I'm trying to get more wickets with Lancashire this year. In theory, I can get my tally of wickets up to maybe 170, so we’ll see how it goes here.”
Fellow Roses debutant Mitchell Starc will spearhead Yorkshire’s attack and tops the charts in T20 for this season after dismissing 13 at a miserly average of just over nine.
The 22-year-old Australia paceman claimed two wickets with the game’s final two deliveries to secure a dramatic four-run triumph over Leicestershire on Wednesday and hopes to continue his hot streak against Lancashire.
“I have heard a lot about these games,” Starc said. “Hopefully, we can get some sunshine and get a big crowd out there.
“I have heard a lot about the rivalry, obviously looking at it being a fantastic competition and hopefully we are on the good end of it.”