India spinner R Ashwin will extend his stay in England after the upcoming Test series after signing for Worcestershire. Ashwin, who had his first taste of county cricket with Worcestershire last season, will return for their final two Championship games in 2018.
Ashwin, the fastest bowler to 300 Test wickets, is likely to start as India's lead spinner for the five-match series with England, while also providing vital runs in the lower order (he has four Test hundreds). Currently out of the limited-overs sides, he has joined up with India's Test squad for their warm-up match, against Essex at Chelmsford, starting on Wednesday.
Last season, Ashwin had a major impact at Worcestershire, taking 20 wickets in four matches while averaging 42.50 with the bat. As reported by ESPNcricinfo in May, the club were keen to bring him back and clearance has now been agreed with the BCCI.
"We are delighted to have Ashwin coming back for what could be a key part of the season," Worcestershire's chief executive, Matt Rawnsley, said. "He is one of the best spinners in world cricket and the influence he had when here last season cannot be underestimated.
"The lads all speak so highly of him, the impact he had on the field and the way he slotted in so well off the pitch and he was willing to offer advice to our young spinners like Ben Twohig."
Ashwin will be available for Worcestershire's trip to Essex, starting on September 18, and the home game against Yorkshire the following week. Currently bottom of the table, they are looking to avoid being relegated to Division Two for the fourth time in ten years.
"Ashwin is world class and he loved it at Worcestershire," head coach Kevin Sharp said. "Conversations have been ongoing about him coming back and I'm sure he will be a great fillip for us. He had a massive input for us on and off the field last summer in helping us gain promotion and he is a high class individual."
Although Virat Kohli had to pull out of a stint with Surrey due to injury, several Indians have enjoyed spells in county cricket this summer. Cheteshwar Pujara spent the first half of the season at Yorkshire, while Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron played for Sussex and Leicestershire respectively, and Axar Patel has signed for a spell at Durham.