PROLIFIC and experienced Pakistan test opener Azhar Ali has joined Worcestershire CCC for all 14 LV=Insurance County Championship matches this summer.
The 37-year-old has agreed a deal to open for the Pears in red-ball cricket for the 2022 campaign and will be a direct replacement for club legend Daryl Mitchell following his retirement in September.
Ali’s move comes after the long-trailed signing of Australian Matthew Wade collapsed at the 11th hour when the big-hitting wicketkeeper batsman was picked up by the Gujarat Titans for this year’s Indian Premier League.
While the tournament is tentatively scheduled to end on May 21, New Road chiefs have said Wade is ‘unable’ to join the club as planned.
It’s unclear whether Wade will be considered as the club’s second overseas player for the Vitality Blast campaign.
Ali has played 91 Tests for his country spanning 11 years since making his debut in 2010 and has scored 6,721 runs at an average of 42.53 with 18 centuries
The experienced right-hander already has experience of County Championship cricket, through three spells at Somerset, and he scored a century against Worcestershire on his debut at Taunton in 2018.
He is set for his Worcestershire debut in the opening County Championship game against Leicestershire at the Uptonsteel County Ground beginning on April 7.
Worcestershire supporters will have the first opportunity to see Ali in action at New Road against Sussex in a game that gets under way on April 21.
Pears Cricket Steering Group chairman Paul Pridgeon hailed the move as a ‘fantastic signing’ both on and off the pitch.
“His record in Test cricket is outstanding, and he offers great experience and is of high quality,” he said.
“He has got a lot going for him, and it is excellent as well that we’ve got someone available to play County Championship cricket all summer. It gives us that stability.
“Azhar will be great in the dressing room as well and will also be able to pass on some good information and experience to the young lads.
“We spoke to Andy Hurry (Somerset head coach), and he said Azhar is singularly the nicest human being you could ever come across.
“The fact he has played county cricket already so knows all about English conditions is another plus factor.”
Ali has vast experience and made his first-class debut two decades ago.
His Test debut came at Lord’s against Australia in 2010, and he has been a critical component in the Pakistan side ever since.
Ali hit his highest Test score of 302 not out against the West Indies in Dubai in October 2016 when he batted for 11 hours.
He has a total of 41 first class hundreds and 14,040 runs