Australian all-rounder Ashley Noffke has signed for Worcestershire as their overseas player for the first four months of the 2009 season.
The 31-year-old was voted Queensland’s player of the year in 2007-8 and has had a good start to the current domestic season.
Having had a troublesome time securing a recognised overseas player for the second half of last season, Steve Rhodes, Worcestershire’s director of cricket, is understandably delighted to have his man so early, especially as a host of other counties were seeking Noffke’s services.
He said: “His all-round game is proven in both Australia and England and his wealth of experience will be a huge benefit to our younger players. He still has a desire to play for Australia and Worcestershire can only benefit from this. He is a vital part of our plans for the 2009 season.
“He’s a player I have been after for a couple of years are we delighted he has signed for us. I am not willing to divulge who the other counties were that were after him but in signing for us he shows that we must be doing something right.
“If you look at the first division you can see that you need to have a strong batting line-up and with Ashley likely to bat at seven and Gareth Batty and Kabir Ali eight and nine, we have a strong tail. When Worcestershire won the title on a couple of occasions it was because of the depth of our batting.”
Noffke was in the form of his life last year when he became only the third Australian to do their ‘double’ – 50 wickets and 500 runs in a season - but has not fared so well during previous stints in England, largely due to injury. His off-season stints with Middlesex and Durham have ended early.
There is no doubting his ability, however. He was in the Australian squad that toured West Indies and made his one-day international debut in February against India. Noffke has a first class bowling average of 28.07 and a batting average of 27.14. In Twenty20 cricket he has an economy rate of seven and a strike rate of a wicket every 14 balls.
He took part in the inaugural Indian Premier League playing for Bangalore Royal Challengers, who bought him for $50,000.
Importantly, he is still eager to represent Australia and chose Worcestershire ahead of a host of other counties, possibly due to the advice of Andy Bichel, a former New Road favourite and Queensland team-mate.
Rhodes said: “Ashley is keen to take on the role we want him to do. We don’t want him here to be a donkey bowler, we see him very much as part of a quartet where his skills will complement the other bowlers. We are looking good in that area, especially with Imran Arif’s emergence last season, so we will be much better equipped to deal with injuries this season.
“Ashley also still has international ambitions. He knows, in order to achieve those ambitions, he will have to play well to keep himself in front of the Australia selectors.
“When Zaheer Khan played here he proved that he was not a spent force at international level and his career has taken off. There’s no reason why Ashley’s can’t do the same.”