London: Surrey has signed Azhar Mahmood as its overseas player for the opening month of the forthcoming English county season while fellow Pakistani Saqlain Mushtaq is on international duty against New Zealand.
Off spinner Saqlain, whose wickets helped Surrey to back-to-back county championships in 1999 and 2000, is due to return to The Oval-based side in May. As well as providing cover for Saqlain, Mahmood, 27, will help restore balance to the Surrey line-up following the death of the county's England all-rounder Ben Hollioake in a car crash in Perth, Australia, last month. "Ben Hollioake's tragic death left a huge hole both on and off the field," Surrey chief executive Paul Sheldon said. "Although we will never be able to replace what he brought to the club off the pitch, Saqlain's absence through international duty has given us the opportunity to fill the void left by Ben and bring in an all-rounder of international calibre." Mahmood has played 21 Tests scoring 900 runs at 30 and taking 35 wickets at an average of 35.94 apiece. He made a name for himself in England last year by taking four for 50 with his whippy medium-pacers at Lord's during Pakistan's first Test defeat. Mahmood has also played 113 One-day Internationals where his aggressive batting is not to be underestimated.
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