WORCESTERSHIRE’S Friends Life t20 hopes have been dealt a major blow with the news spin sensation Saeed Ajmal will not be returning for a second stint with the club.

Pakistan’s long-proposed tour of Sri Lanka has just about been rubber-stamped and, with Saeed keen to establish himself as the world’s number one spinner, he will be joining up with his country rather than the County this summer.

When the off-spinner committed to return to Worcestershire, the Sri Lanka tour was not agreed in the ICC schedule, but it is now likely to take place between late May and mid-July, which clashes with the English t20 competition.

New Road director of cricket Steve Rhodes will now turn his attention elsewhere for a second overseas player to link up with Aussie batsman Phil Hughes during the t20.

However, Rhodes is frustrated by the limitations placed on him by work permit rules and a packed international schedule, which are hampering his efforts to find a replacement for Saeed, who enjoyed a hugely successful stint at New Road last term.

The County chief admitted: “Losing a player of Saeed’s quality is a big disappointment. However, we are extremely active in finding a replacement for the t20.

“There are a few people I have in mind, but it is very difficult as there are strict guidelines with work permits and there is also so much international cricket going on that it is tough to find people who are available.”

Another fly in the ointment is a potential Australia ‘A’ call-up for Hughes when his country tour England in August, which could rule the left-hander out for a further three weeks of the season.

The axed Test opener has already had to be replaced by compatriot Mike Klinger at the top of the Worcestershire order after his inclusion in a Cricket Australia training camp meant he was forced to miss the first six weeks of the English domestic season.

Rhodes is hoping whoever he signs to replace Saeed could also be flexible enough to stay on as cover for Hughes, should he be called into the Australia ‘A’ squad, which will play two tour matches against England Lions, at Old Trafford, starting on Tuesday, August 7, and then at Edgbaston a week later.