County news April 4, 2015

Worcestershire sign Senanayake to fill Ajmal void

ESPNcricinfo staff

Senanayake has only played one Test match for Sri Lanka © PA Photos

Worcestershire have signed Sachithra Senanayake, the Sri Lanka offspinner, as an early-season replacement for Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal. Senanayake has played one Test, 45 ODIs and 17 T20s for Sri Lanka.

Ajmal, who was included in all three of Pakistan's squads for their upcoming tour of Bangladesh, is unlikely to be available to play for Worcestershire until the second half of the season.

"With Saeed Ajmal's situation, it is always difficult with so much international cricket being played around the world and suddenly tours do come around," said Steve Rhodes, Worcestershire's director of cricket. "The one of Bangladesh is a late agreement to tour so it meant we've had to find a replacement.

"But we are very happy with Senanayake, a proven international player. He has played a lot of games in the shorter formats for Sri Lanka, not a lot of the Test matches, but his first class record is excellent.

"He has got a really good ratio of five wicket hauls and, when you are looking at replacing a strike bowler like Saeed, you need someone who can take wickets and he is proven at that."

Senanayake has 376 first-class wickets at an average of 19.69, with 32 five-wicket hauls in 71 matches. Rhodes was confident Senanayake could adequately replace Ajmal, who picked up 63 wickets in nine matches at 16.47 to fire their push for promotion.

"What we did enjoy last year was a really good balance of our attack with having a spin bowler who could bowl plenty of overs in Saeed," Rhodes said. "His great strength was how he could keep it tight but also attack and we are very optimistic a player like Senanayake can do something similar.

"That way then we can rotate the other seam bowlers at the other end and they know that formula works so there is quite a confidence in the bowling group that type of formula will work. Last year one of the things that worked particularly well was trying to knock over some of the top order and get the middle order and tail exposed to a top international spinner."

Senanayake's only Test appearance came last year in Abu Dhabi, where he went wicketless against Pakistan.

"He has got a lot to prove regarding his four-day cricket because he wants desperately to get into that Test side and he has never played in England before so there are a lot of positives about picking up a player at the right time," Rhodes said. "I try to sign hungry players because if they've got a desire to succeed and improve themselves then they are the right person for Worcestershire. We're giving him a platform of first class cricket to impress."

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