Cricketer Azeem Rafiq took his 100th Twenty20 wicket for Yorkshire Vikings this week and dedicated it to his son Alyaan who was stillborn earlier in the year.
Azeem and his wife Faryal lost their baby in May after a difficult pregnancy. The tragedy meant that the 27-year-old spinner from Barnsley missed the first three months of the season including the 50-over One Day Cup, in which he was Yorkshire's top-wicket taker last year, while he is yet to play a County Championship match in 2018.
But he has returned to play in the Twenty20 Blast and claimed his 100th wicket in that format during the win over Leicestershire Foxes at Headingley on Tuesday. Rafiq told the Chronicle: "I was incredibly proud of reaching that milestone and it made it better that all my family and my wife were there to enjoy it with me. It has been a very, very difficult year with losing our baby and I would like to dedicate that wicket to our son."
Rafiq became the fourth player to reach 100 wickets for Yorkshire in Twenty20 which began in 2003. The first three were England internationals Adil Rashid and Tim Bresnan as well as Richard Pyrah. Rafiq has played the fewest matches, 92, of the quartet and is only the 24th player from any county reach 100.
With Pyrah retired, Bresnan currently injured and Rashid likely to play very little domestic cricket this summer as he is in the England Test squad, Rafiq has the chance to become the club's top Twenty20 wicket-taker of all time. He needs ten wickets to do so, with five group games remaining as well as potentially a quarter-final, semi-final and final.
"I have been targeting 100 wickets for a while and I thought I might get it last season but it wasn't to be. I would love to overtake Rash as the number one on that list and I have the time to do that this season. I came into the Blast this year having not played much cricket so it took me a while to start taking wickets but that is coming now."
After taking one wicket in the first six games, Rafiq has claimed two in each of the last three matches, which saw the Vikings beat Leicestershire Foxes on Tuesday evening after losing twice to Derbyshire Falcons on Saturday and Monday. That put them in the fourth qualification place for the quarter-finals.
"We played really well against Leicestershire and it was good to get back to winning ways after some disappointing results. I think we need to win three of the last five games, including one of our matches against Nottinghamshire who we are neck and neck with. It's an incredibly tight table and it will probably come down to the last game. I think we have got all the tools to go all the way but we need to be more consistent."