Cricket: Somerset say goodbye to Azhar Ali
PUBLISHED: 16:30 16 August 2019
Azhar Ali will be unavailalbe for Somerset's last two Specsavers County Championship matches of the season after being recalled by the Pakistan Cricket Board.
All centrally-contracted players are required to play in a round of first-class matches followed by a mandatory national training camp ahead of a Test series against Sri Lanka.
In order for registration to be completed in time for the last two matches, a replacement overseas signing would need to be processed by September 6.
Somerset's Director of Cricket Andy Hurry said: "In order for us to have an overseas player available to replace Azhar Ali for those final two matches against Hampshire and Essex, we would need to register them before our home fixture against Yorkshire.
"After discussing this with Azhar he felt that the team's needs should come before his and he has therefore agreed to return to Pakistan early in order for us to have an overseas player for the final three games.
"This means that Azhar has played his last match for us this season. I know that I speak for everyone associated with the club when I say that he has been outstanding.
"His contributions on the field have proved to be vital, mainly with the bat, but no one should forget his five wickets in the Royal London One-Day Cup quarter-final at Worcestershire. His work behind the scenes, particularly with the younger players, has also made a huge impression on us all.
"To put it simply, if Azhar hadn't agreed to this, we wouldn't have had an overseas player for our final two matches. I think that speaks volumes about him as a man and as a professional. He has been a real credit to himself and the PCB during his time with us and there is no doubt in my mind that he has added real value to the club."
Following the announcement from the PCB, Azhar Ali said: "Obviously I'm sad to be leaving but it is an honour to play for Pakistan.
"My time at Somerset has been wonderful and I have really enjoyed it. It's been fantastic. I have many happy memories of my time here but winning a Lord's final really stands out as being special.
When I came here, I really wanted to win the Championship with Somerset and I really hope that the team can achieve that this year. We have played some very good cricket and I wish all the players the very best for the last games of the season."