Azhar Ali returns to Somerset, Zafar Gohar joins Gloucestershire

Somerset look to shore up opening combination in push for maiden County Championship

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Azhar Ali gets down to sweep, Somerset v Nottinghamshire, County Championship, 3rd day, July 9, 2019

Azhar Ali has had two previous spells at Somerset  •  Getty Images

Somerset have brought Azhar Ali back to the club in a bid to solve their top-order batting problems and spearhead a push to win their first-ever County Championship title.
Somerset have averaged 18.46 for the first wicket in the Championship this season giving them the lowest average opening stand in the country, with Tom Banton and Tom Lammonby both short of runs at the top of the order. Tom Abell has been prolific at No. 3 and has returned to fitness following a hamstring injury but appears unlikely to shuffle up to open.
They signed Devon Conway for two Championship games in July during his spell as the club's second overseas player for the T20 Blast, but he has since returned to New Zealand after suffering a finger injury while playing for Southern Brave in the Hundred.
As a result, they have brought Azhar back for a third spell at the club, following stints in 2018 and 2019. They expect him to be available for "at least three" of the final four rounds of Championship games following international duty in the Caribbean, and the Bob Willis Trophy final if Somerset finish in the top two.
"I am very excited to be returning to Somerset - it has become like a second home for me," Azhar said. Andy Hurry, the club's director of cricket, described him as a "class act… [who] embodies everything that you want an overseas player to be."
Meanwhile, Gloucestershire have brought in Azhar's Pakistan team-mate Zafar Gohar for their final four Championship fixtures. Gohar, the left-arm spinner, made his Test debut against New Zealand earlier this year and has experience playing in England for Moddershall and Oulton and Warwickshire's second XI in 2019.
Gloucestershire's defeat in their final game in the first stage of the Championship means that they are in Division Two and playing only for prize money in September. "Gloucestershire are a fantastic club with a rich history, and I'm looking forward to hopefully playing my part in ensuring the season finishes on a high," Gohar said.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98