Leicestershire captain Matthew Hoggard played an inadvertently key role for Derbyshire in their successful backs-to-the-wall bid to salvage an LV County Championship draw at Grace Road.
With Derbyshire seven wickets down and seemingly heading for an innings defeat, 20-year-old Azeem Rafiq, playing in his first Championship match on a month’s loan from Yorkshire, came to the wicket to face a perilous position.
But he battled through for an hour and 40 minutes for 18 runs as the bottom three of the Derbyshire batting order played out the last 30 overs to earn a draw and said the constant banter from his former Yorkshire team-mate helped settle any nerves.
“Hoggy made it easier for me because he made it fun. I thrived on that,” said Rafiq. “Having played with Hoggy, you can’t not have fun when Hoggy is on the field. That relaxed me.
“I never really got to the stage where I was thinking about how many overs were left and all that because when you do, it starts getting complicated.
“I just tried to watch the ball and if you get a good ball that gets you out, fair enough. I concentrated on not getting myself out and in the end it worked.”
Rafiq, the former England Under-19 captain, was allowed to join Derbyshire on loan after having to wait for his chance at Headingley.
He has played only seven first-class matches for the White Rose county so far in his career and leg-spinner Adil Rashid and left-armer David Wainwright have been the preferred spin options at the start of this season.
Rafiq has felt short of bowling but got through 36 overs at Leicester and, though they were wicketless, he hopes to press his claim for when he returns to Yorkshire during this month at the County Ground.
“Hopefully I can put in a few performances while I’m here and see what happens,” he added. “It’s tough at Yorkshire at the moment. I certainly feel like I’m knocking on the door and I should have had a chance but I’m here to enjoy my cricket, get some first-class cricket under my belt and perhaps win a few games.
“The lads here have been absolutely brilliant since I arrived the other day. They have all make me feel so welcome. I feel quite loved.
“Things didn’t go my way at Leicester. I could quite easily have had a few wickets in those first few sessions and got a bit frustrated towards the end.
“What I have to try to do now is be patient. I just have to keep doing my thing and hopefully the wickets will come my way. I certainly feel like I bowled well enough to get a few wickets. In the last week, I’ve bowled quite a few overs for various teams and I can feel it a bit but it’s good to get a long bowl.”