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Azeem Rafiq attends third day of Headingley Test as guest of Yorkshire

Azeem Rafiq (centre) takes in the third Test at Headingley. (Mike Egerton/PA)
Azeem Rafiq (centre) takes in the third Test at Headingley. (Mike Egerton/PA)

Azeem Rafiq attended day three of the Headingley Test between England and New Zealand as Yorkshire’s guest, returning to the ground for the first time since he went public with claims of institutional racism at the club.

Rafiq enjoyed Saturday’s action from a balcony at the Pavilion End, having accepted a White Rose invitation to take in a game that was almost relocated at the height of the racism scandal set in motion by his whistleblowing.

Yorkshire’s right to host international fixtures was suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board after Rafiq’s explosive, harrowing testimony in front a parliamentary select committee last year. The sanction was only lifted four months ago, in recognition of a new leadership regime led by chair Lord Kamlesh Patel and the work it had done to address failures of the past.

Patel told BBC’s Test Match Special on day one that the very existence of the club would have been in doubt had the England team been kept away, such is the commercial value attached to such fixtures.

Rafiq stands to applaud on his return to his former home ground.
Rafiq stands to applaud on his return to his former home ground. (Mike Egerton/PA)

Rafiq, who represented Yorkshire in two spells between 2008 and 2018, had argued that Yorkshire should not lose their host status. He suggested Lord Patel’s reforms should be rewarded and warned that going out of business would be counter-productive to hopes of becoming a fully inclusive club for all parts of the community.

The 31-year-old was also present at Lord’s for the first Test of the summer but it is understood concerns were raised about him advertising his return to Headingley. He sent a solitary tweet in the morning, with just one word: “nervous”.