STEVE Rhodes praised a “very special effort” from Worcestershire skipper Joe Leach in reaching the 50-wicket mark in the Specsavers County Championship for the third successive season.

The 26-year-old reached the milestone when bowling Liam Norwell to seal a Division Two victory over Gloucestershire at New Road this week.

It took his wicket tally in the competition to 174 since the start of the 2015 season from just 41 games at an average of more than four per match.

Director of cricket Rhodes said: “Joe has put in a grand effort to maintain that sort of wicket-taking.

“It is testament to his fitness. He has managed to play through injuries and to be resilient enough to bowl the overs he has.

“When his body has ached a bit he has kept coming back and he knows if he keeps bowling he is going to take wickets.

“But to get 50 wickets three seasons on the bounce is a very special effort.”

Rhodes was delighted with the debut performance of Ravichandran Ashwin who picked up eight wickets against Gloucestershire and made useful contributions with the bat.

He said: “You throw him the ball or when he bats or in the field as well he is a wonderful cricketer.

“He is a thinking cricketer. He is always trying different things and so far he has been tremendous.

“He has really enjoyed our dressing room which most players do when they come here but he has also enjoyed the environment, area and countryside.

"It is a chance for him to breathe a bit because he is really in the limelight in India with so many people wanting a piece of him.

“To come here where it is a bit quieter I think has been a breath of fresh air for him.”

Meanwhile, Ashwin wasted no time in making his mark in the Professional Cricketers’ Association most valuable player rankings.

Worcestershire’s new overseas player made his first appearance in the chart with a match haul of 41 points.

Ashwin earned 22 for his second-innings bowling of 5-68 but also contributed 36 and 28 in each innings with the bat.

Opener Daryl Mitchell made his fifth century of the season and picked up 24 more rankings points.

The PCA chairman nudged ahead of all-rounder Ed Barnard to become the County’s highest-placed player in the championship rankings.

Mitchell is 17th with 170, a place and a point ahead of Barnard.

The 33-year-old is 13th in the all-time overall MVP rankings since the system was introduced in 2007.

He has 3,518 points in all competitions with Moeen Ali 29th on 3,075.

Josh Tongue is 38th this season in the championship on 136 with Joe Clarke 44th, Brett D’Oliveira 75th and Ben Cox 76th.

Captain Joe Leach is 19th overall with 330 across all formats.

Mitchell is three places and 10 points behind Leach with D’Oliveira 34th, Cox 37th, Clarke 38th and Barnard 46th.

John Hastings, who has returned home because of injury, also features in the top 100.