Yorkshire may only have an outside chance of winning the County Championship, but their determination to do just that has been emphasised by their recruitment of Ajaz Patel, the New Zealand left-arm spinner, for their final two games.
Patel, 30, Bombay-born but a New Zealand resident since early childhood, will play against Kent at Emerald Headingley and against Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
He will replace as overseas player Keshav Maharaj, the South African left-arm spinner, whose last appearance comes next week against Somerset at Taunton.
Yorkshire head into those final three Championship matches of the season third in the table, 37 points behind leaders Essex and 35 behind second-placed Somerset.
There are a maximum of 24 points on offer in each Championship match (16 for a win and up to eight bonus points for batting/bowling, with a draw worth five points).
Somerset host Essex in the final round, with Somerset also having to visit Hampshire in addition to facing Yorkshire. Essex’s next two games are away to Warwickshire and at home to Surrey.
Patel, who has made seven Test and two T20 international appearances, has been playing club cricket this summer for Cranleigh in Surrey.
Last month he played in New Zealand’s 1-1 Test draw in Sri Lanka, taking nine wickets over the course of the two games.
As such, he is a man in good form, match-sharp and primed to make what he hopes will be a pivotal difference as Yorkshire pursue their third title in six seasons.
“I hope to do as much as I can to help Yorkshire into the best position to be able to win the competition,” said Patel.
“It’s a great opportunity and something I’m really looking forward to.
“I’ve just had a good tour of Sri Lanka, where I was quite successful in their conditions, and confidence-wise I’m feeling good and the ball is coming out nicely.
“When I got the call from Yorkshire, I jumped at the opportunity, and I’ll do my best to take as many wickets as possible.”
Yorkshire sounded out several people who know Patel well. Two of his New Zealand team-mates during the Sri Lanka series were the former Yorkshire overseas players Kane Williamson and Jeet Raval, the latter an old school friend.
Yorkshire believe that they have a top-class performer to follow in the footsteps of Maharaj, who has captured 28 wickets and scored 235 runs in four Championship games but is unavailable after the Somerset match due to international commitments.
“We’ve spoken to those that know Ajaz well and he has been one of the most consistent performers in domestic cricket and he has done well in Sri Lanka for New Zealand recently,” said Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket.
“We feel he’s well qualified to come in and be available for the last two games for us when, hopefully, we can continue our push to finish as high as possible in the County Championship.
“Mathematically, it’s possible that we can still win it and we want to give ourselves the best possible opportunity.
“We looked at the options to fill Kesh’s shoes, and we think that Ajaz is the best to do that.”
Yorkshire’s main spin bowling position has been a problem since Adil Rashid quit Championship cricket before the start of last season.
The England World Cup-winner is now out for the summer with a shoulder injury and it remains unclear what the future holds for him when his Yorkshire contract shortly expires.
In Rashid’s absence, Yorkshire have fielded leg-spinner Josh Poysden and left-arm spinner James Logan in Championship cricket, plus off-spinner Jack Shutt in T20.
But Poysden is also out for the season after being struck on the head in practice and Logan has also had injury problems, with Yorkshire having had to make do and mend, as it were, by signing Maharaj and the Somerset off-spinner Dom Bess on loan – not least to shore up their lower order batting.
Patel has no batting pedigree of which to speak; he has yet to make a half-century in 113 first-team appearances in all formats.
But he has taken 286 wickets during that time and has a proven cutting edge, as he showed with a five-wicket haul in the recent Galle Test.