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Pakistan off-spinner heading back ‘home’
SAEED Ajmal has agreed to rejoin Worcestershire for this summer’s Twenty20 competition, but director of cricket Steve Rhodes admits it is in the balance whether or not the Pakistani spin ace will be able to fulfil the commitment.
The off-spinner played a huge role in his country’s recent Test series whitewash of England and it will be seen as a big coup that New Road officials have managed to tempt him back for a second spell with the County.
However, there is an in-creasing likelihood that Pakistan will tour Sri Lanka later this summer, which would coincide with the English Twenty20 competition and, consequently, sup-ercede Ajmal’s agreement with Worcestershire. Rhodes said: “He may not get to us because of Pakistan’s potential tour of Sri Lanka. If that was to happen, it would be sad, but international cricket comes first. That said, I am delighted Saeed has agreed to rejoin us. He is hot news at the moment and was man of the series for cleaning up England.
“He is a brilliant performer and there has been a lot of demand for him from other clubs. But he wanted to come back here and play for us because he enjoyed it last time and that says a lot about him as a man.”
Ajmal, who took 16 wickets in last year’s Twenty20 at an average of just over 11 with an economy rate of less than six-per-over, said: “I really enjoyed my time at New Road in 2011 and look forward to returning this summer to help inspire the club to Friends Life t20 success.”
Should Ajmal’s Worcester-shire return be scuppered, Rhodes admitted the congested international schedule could make it very difficult to recruit an overseas replacement.
“If it comes down to it, we will go into the Twenty20 with the players we’ve already got,” Rhodes said.
Ajmal is currently ranked as the second best t20 bowler in the Reliance ICC world rankings.
In the recent England versus Pakistan Test Series, Ajmal took 24 wickets.
Meanwhile, Moeen Ali is in line for an England Lions call-up for the game against the full England team in Abu Dhabi tomorrow. The left-hander has been playing first-class cricket in Sri Lanka and signed off for his club with 157 in his final match. He could be called into the Lions side as injury cover for Somerset’s Jos Buttler.
Moeen – along with county team-mate Alan Richardson – will also be in Middle East action after the duo were selected for the traditional pre-season curtain-raiser between the MCC and the reigning county champions Lancashire, which will take place in Abu Dhabi at the end of March.
Elsewhere, New Road skipper Daryl Mitchell, on his second stint in Zimbabwe with the Muntare-based Mountaineers, smashed 176 in their recent game, while fellow batsman James Cam-eron also scored a hundred playing for University, near Perth, in Australian grade cricket. Bowlers Richard Jones and Chris Russell have also been in form, with the former claiming 4-20 off 15 overs for the Matabele-land Tuskers in Zimbabwe. Russell grabbed 6-18 playing grade cricket in Cape Town.