SOMERSET have announced Murali Vijay has signed to play in the club's final three Specsavers County Championship matches of the 2019 season.

The 35-year-old opening batsman has played in 61 Tests for India, scoring nearly 4,000 runs at an average of 38.28, with a top score of 167.

His First Class career encompasses 131 matches, in which he has scored in excess of 9,000 runs at an average of 42.79 (top score of 266).

He featured in three County Championship matches for Essex last season, scoring more than 320 runs at an average of 64.60.

Vijay arrives in place of Azhar Ali, after it was announced last week that the Pakistan Cricket Board will recall all centrally contracted players for a round of First Class matches and a mandatory training camp ahead of a Test series against Sri Lanka.

With Ali (and Babar Azam, who played in the County Championship win at Warwickshire) both being Pakistan internationals, that meant Somerset needed to find a replacement overseas signing for the final three County Championship fixtures this season – at home to Yorkshire (September 10), away to Hampshire (September 16) and at home to Essex (September 23).

Somerset are just two points off leaders Essex at the top of Division 1, with those three remaining games determining whether the county will win its first ever Championship title this year.

After signing for Somerset, Vijay said: "I am excited about the challenge of trying to help Somerset push for the County Championship.

"Somerset have an excellent reputation and I am looking forward to being a part of what they are trying to achieve."

Somerset director of cricket Andy Hurry said: “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.”