County Championship: Saeed Ajmal spins Worcs towards victory

Saeed Ajmal is congratulated by his Worcestershire team-mates
Saeed Ajmal took 63 wickets last summer as Worcestershire won promotion from Division Two
LV= County Championship Division One, New Road (close, day three)
Worcestershire 478: Mitchell 206 no, Clarke 70, Leach 59, Bird 4-146
Hampshire 183: Vince 56, Smith 51 no, Ajmal 5-28, Leach 4-75 and 164-6: Terry 37, Shantry 3-33
Hampshire need a further 131 runs to avoid an innings defeat
Worcestershire 7 pts, Hampshire 2 pts
Match scorecard

Pakistan Test spinner Saeed Ajmal produced his best figures since returning to world cricket to nudge Worcestershire within sight of victory over fellow strugglers Hampshire.

Ajmal had only taken four first-class wickets prior to the start of play since rejoining Worcestershire in May.

But he doubled that haul, ending with 5-28, well supported by Joe Leach (4-75), as Hampshire were all out for 183.

The visitors then fared little better second time around, closing on 164-6.

Jack Shantry, wisely kept fresh to lead the afternoon assault, starred this time, taking 3-33, including his 50th first-class wicket of the season, while Ajmal claimed only one second innings scalp.

Saeed Ajmal back in good shape again
This is only Saeed Ajmal's fourth first-class match since having his action remodelled. He was banned last August by the International Cricket Council for having a suspect bowling action, before being cleared to return in February. He claimed 63 wickets in nine games for Worcestershire last summer to inspire promotion from Division Two.

Hampshire will resume on the final day still needing 132 more runs to avoid an innings defeat and probably may need help from the weather to save the game.

After resuming on 86-3, James Vince (56) and Will Smith (51 not out) both hit f half centuries for Hampshire.

But it turned into the Ajmal show as the star off-spinner, who had claimed his first scalp of the innings the night before, took a return catch from Adam Wheater, then had Joe Gatting caught at deep square leg before Leach bowled Gareth Berg for the fourth wicket, all in the space of 25 balls.

Ajmal then dismissed Danny Briggs and Brad Wheal, who was caught and bowled at the second attempt.

Second time around, Sean Terry's 37 was Hampshire's best score and their hopes at the close were resting on Joe Gatting (28 not out) and Gareth Berg (12 not out).

If eighth-placed Worcestershire go on to win, it would take them level on points with seventh-placed Sussex, leaving bottom side Hampshire 26 points adrift.

Worcestershire bowling coach Matt Mason told BBC Hereford & Worcester:

"Saeed Ajmal looked the most threatening he has been all year and back to somewhere near his best. You can see the uncertainty in the batsmen trying to play and pick him. That will be great for his confidence.

"The bowlers stuck to their task. It is never easy when you ask a team to follow on. It means a big effort from the bowling group and the fielding group.

"We've still got four wickets to pick up in the morning and will have to work pretty hard for them but I couldn't be happier with the bowling group. They've been terrific, got the ball to reverse and Joe Leach was devastating with that reverse swing."

Hampshire coach Dale Benkenstein told BBC Radio Solent:

"On a dead wicket, there's not a lot that it has been doing to get us out.

"Their plans are very simple and they are very good at sticking to them. Our problems are individual. Not one player is getting in and getting a score.

"When guys do get in, it looks like they are in and then just keep getting out. It's been a pattern for most of the season."

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