County Championship 2019: Murali Vijay joins Somerset as Azhar Ali’s replacement
Murali Vijay has an average of 38.28 in 61 Tests for India. © AFP

India Test opener Murali Vijay has completed formalities to join English county side Somerset on a short-term deal.

Vijay will play three matches for Somerset in the ongoing County Championship, replacing Pakistan Test specialist Azhar Ali who has left the club for international commitments.

Somerset are currently placed at second on the Division One points table.

“I am excited about the challenge of trying to help Somerset push for the County Championship,” said Vijay. “Somerset have an excellent reputation and I am looking forward to being a part of what they are trying to achieve.”

Vijay, 35, is statistically India’s fourth most successful opener in Tests with 3880 at an average of 39.19 (he has 3982 at 39.28 overall, from 61 matches).

In 2018, he averaged 18.80 from 15 Test innings, a number boosted by 105 against Afghanistan, which was Vijay’s only 50-plus score of the year. In four innings in Australia in December, he totalled 49 runs with a best of 20. Thrice he was dismissed by Mitchell Starc, which prompted the team management to drop him for the MCG Test where Mayank Agarwal made his debut and scored 76 and 42 in a series-clinching victory.

Vijay played for Essex in last year’s County Championship, and averaged nearly 65 with scores of 56, 100, 85, 80 and 2 from three matches.

Andy Hurry,  Somerset’s Director of Cricket, commented: “We are delighted to have been able to secure the services of such a high-quality player for the remainder of the County Championship. To have signed a player of his class and ability at this stage of the season is a real coup. He has experience of English conditions, having played in the Championship for Essex last year, and that was extremely important to us when it came to selecting a replacement for Azhar.”