County Round-Up For 11th-17th November 2013

Ajmal delivers the ball
Worcestershire are hoping that Saeed Ajmal will play for them next season.
©Action Images / Paul Harding
Jon Lewis prepares to bowl
Jon Lewis was hardly used in first-class cricket last season by Surrey.
©Action Images / Ed Sykes
Peter Siddle appeals
Peter Siddle will hope that his lion-hearted performances can inspire Nottinghamshire to the Championship title.
©Action Images / Andrew Boyers Livepic
Richard Jones player pic
Richard Jones has gone from being a Pear to a Bear.
©Action Images / Paul Harding

Welcome to the county cricket round-up for the week beginning 11th November. This article will be updated with the latest stories as they unfold during the rest of the week.

Worcestershire Pull Off Big-Name Signing....Provisionally
Saeed Ajmal will return to Worcestershire for the 2014 season, subject to approval from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the receipt of the correct visa, and international commitments.

Ajmal was due to play for Hampshire towards the end of last season but Pakistan arranged a tour of Zimbabwe so that move was scuppered. Currently, Pakistan are not scheduled to play any international cricket between early April and early October next year, but they are one of the cricket boards who have a habit of arranging tours at short notice.

Ajmal previously had a short stint at New Road in 2011, taking 17 wickets in the LV= County Championship. Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes said of the prospect of Ajmal’s return: “Saeed fitted in to the dressing room fantastically well in 2011 and his experience at the highest level can only be a massive boost to our young squad. To sign a world-class player of Saeed’s quality shows the stature the club has in the world of cricket and demonstrates the county’s determination to challenge for honours in 2014.”

Ajmal, who is ranked the fourth best Test bowler by the ICC, added, “I’m looking forward to returning to New Road for what I hope will be an extended stay. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed our short time in Worcester during 2011 and I hope to be able to contribute to a successful 2014 campaign.”

Lewis Secures Sussex Move
Veteran seam-bowler Jon Lewis has completed his expected move to Hove on a one-year contract. The 38 year-old was released by Surrey at the end of last season and had been linked to a move to his former county Gloucestershire, but that was scuppered due to the club’s small playing budget.

He will instead now join a potent Sussex pace attack that includes Steve Magoffin, James Anyon and Chris Jordan, and has already been bolstered by the winter acquisition of Steffan Piolet from Warwickshire.

Lewis said of his move, “I'm really excited to be joining Sussex, a club I have admired from a distance for a long time and I'm looking forward to a new challenge in my career.

“I am really confident that I can make valuable contributions to the team across all competitions. Sussex have a strong squad that in my opinion is close to winning more trophies and I want to help them achieve this.”

Sussex’s Professional Cricket Manager Mark Robinson added, “It is great news to have Jon on board for the 2014 season. He brings a wealth of experience and knowhow. He is still remarkably fit and ambitious as to what he wants to achieve in the game. Jon bowled really well for Surrey last year in the Twenty20 competition, so he will not only give increased competition in the four-day team, but will give us greater options in one-day cricket.”

Lewis began his county career with Gloucestershire back in 1995 and was part of a side that enjoyed numerous successes in one-day cricket. He left at the end of the 2011 season in search of what many suspected was one final pay day at big-spending Surrey. However, following events there that resulted in relegation at the end of last season, they have decided to focus again on younger players and released Lewis. He took only three wickets for them last season in first-class cricket and was used predominantly in the limited-overs game.

38 year-old Lewis is unlucky to have played only one Test match for England during what has been a fine first-class career to date, yielding over 800 wickets at an average of 26.15. He has, however, represent his country 15 times in limited-overs internationals.

New-Look Competitions Get New Rules
The ECB has unveiled a raft of changes to the playing regulations ahead of the new-look 2014 county season; the fixtures for which will be announced on 26th November.

While the press release from the ECB led with the introduction of a Super Over for all Natwest T20 matches and the possibility of using coloured crease markings, it is the changes to the LV= County Championship that will have the greater effect.

Points awarded for a draw in that competition will increase from three to five “in order to provide greater reward for hard-fought draws and matches where bad weather has affected the outcome”, while the use of the much-maligned heavy roller will be severely restricted.

The change to the points system is a welcome one after repeated changes over the past few seasons placed far too much emphasis on gaining a win and incentivised teams to too great a degree to risk losing in order to win.

The heavy roller, meanwhile, which was re-introduced for the 2013 season, can now only be used once per side per match after concerns that some county pitches were becoming more placid as the game progressed last season. In a further twist, the home side may choose to make the heavy roller unavailable completely, thus potentially increasing home advantage.

Most of the other changes aim to bring the county game into line with the international one at the same time as the one-day competition reverts to 50 overs. ODI playing conditions will be used in the Royal London One-Day Cup, meaning that two new balls will be used, while the TV umpire will be able to check for no-balls and waist-high full tosses at the request of the on-field umpire. It will also become a no-ball if a bowler breaks the wicket during his delivery à la Steven Finn, and the time allowed for incoming batsmen in T20 cricket will be reduced from 90 to 60 seconds.

Commenting on the changes, ECB chief executive David Collier said: “These changes are designed to make our domestic game even more spectator and viewer-friendly as well as bring the county game into line with rule changes which have been successfully implemented at international level by the ICC. They will come into force along with the new county schedule next season and are the product of extensive consultation and discussion with all our key stakeholders in the domestic game.”

Siddle Signs On As Notts Change Tack
Peter Siddle will be Nottinghamshire’s overseas player for all of the 2014 county season, barring Natwest T20 matches. Australia are not scheduled to play any long-form cricket during next season so Test specialist Siddle will be available for the duration.

Nottinghamshire Director of Cricket Mick Newell said some time ago that he would move away from the policy of the recent past of employing a batsmen as overseas player in favour of a bowler after the county were almost relegated in the LV= County Championship in 2013.

“Our draws and batting bonus points kept us out of trouble last season,” Newell said, “but we need to find ways to win more four-day matches and strengthening our seam attack is our best method of doing that.

“Peter was always our number one target and we’re very pleased to have secured his services. He was very keen to join us and everyone that we have spoken to has endorsed him as a player and as a person. He’ll add a lot of quality to our ranks, he’ll be an excellent role model for the younger players in our squad and his wicket-taking ability will lift us.

“He was excellent over here during the Ashes series. He has a track record of taking wickets all over the world and I’m hopeful that he can exploit the conditions at Trent Bridge. I’m hoping that he will bring out the best in the other bowlers as I expect to name Peter and Andre [Adams] in the side.

“Andre is in his final season with us and we need players to emerge who can take on his role in the side. We want to be in the top three and to get there we need to strengthen but we also need to get more from the players that we already have.”

Besides Adams, Siddle will join a Notts pace attack that includes younger players such as Harry Gurney, Jake Ball, Ajmal Shahzad, Luke Fletcher and Andy Carter.

Siddle, 28, has taken 167 Test wickets in 46 games for Australia and said of his foray in county cricket: “I’ve always wanted to spend a season in county cricket and this feels like the right opportunity at a time when Australia have no Test matches scheduled. Nottinghamshire have an excellent pedigree and they’re keen to challenge on all fronts which really appeals to me.”

Jones Makes Birmingham Move Permanent
Seam-bowler Richard Jones has parted company with Worcestershire to sign a one-year deal with Midlands rivals Warwickshire.

The 27 year-old fell out of favour at New Road following a string of promising seasons - in 2012 he took 31 first-class wickets at an average of 27.64. Towards the end of last season, he joined Warwickshire on trial but sustained an injury in his first net session and his opportunities to impress were limited. However, the Bears saw enough and will be hoping that bowling coach Graeme Welch can again work his magic as he has done with the likes of Chris Wright, Keith Barker and Oliver Hannon-Dalby.

Commenting on the new arrival, Dougie Brown said: “Richard is an exciting prospect and is a very good addition to our squad. His arrival will create even more competition for places amongst a very strong bowling line-up. He settled in to the squad very well when he joined on trial in August, and Graeme Welch and I are looking forward to working with him ahead of the new season.”

Jones added, “Warwickshire have been one of the top teams in the LV= County Championship for several years and the chance to work with Dougie Brown, Graeme Welch and a team of top-class fast bowlers is a fantastic opportunity for me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at Worcestershire and I wish the club every success in the future.”

Jones made his Worcestershire first-team debut in 2007 and went on to represent them more than 50 times across the three formats. He will now have to compete for a place in a strong Warwickshire pace bowling attack that includes Boyd Rankin, Chris Woakes, Chris Wright, Keith Barker, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, Recardo Gordon and Rikki Clarke.

County Cricket News In Brief:
Seamer Matt Higgnbottom has joined opening batsman Ben Slater in signing an incremental contract with Derbyshire for the 2014 season. Both players played for the county’s first-team in 2013, with Higginbottom also named the Second XI Player of the Year.

Essex seam-bowler David Masters, 35, has penned a one-year contract extension, committing his future to Chelmsford until the end of the 2015 season.

Jimmy Adams will remain as Hampshire skipper for 2014. He had previously indicated that he may step down after the county again failed to gain promotion to Division One of the LV= County Championship, but confirmed to BBC Radio Solent that would be staying on.

Rob Key has been re-appointed as Kent captain after James Tredwell decided to stand down to concentrate on his England limited-overs commitments. Key’s first spell in charge of Kent lasted from 2006 until 2012. Sam Northeast will be his deputy as the county aim to groom a long-term successor.

© Cricket World 2013