SKIPPER Joe Leach says the signing of wicketkeeper-batsman Riki Wessels is a “statement of intent” of Worcestershire's progress and ambition.

Wessels has agreed a three-year contract up until the end of the 2021 campaign after being released from his Nottinghamshire deal.

Highly-rated England Lions international Joe Clarke, 22, also a batsman-wicketkeeper, has already gone in the opposite direction after leaving the County.

Wessels follows all-rounder Wayne Parnell, who also penned a three-year deal, in strengthening the ranks.

Leach said: “It is a good signal of intent having lost Joe to bring in a high-class replacement and it is really important for us to keep going forward.

“Wayne and Riki are quality players and it is good statement that the club are attracting players of such standing and ability.

“Riki will be a like-for-like replacement for Joe at the top of the order in white-ball cricket and in the Championship will slot into the middle order with Callum (Ferguson) and heighten competition for places.

“I have been on the receiving end of a couple of his innings in white-ball cricket and the bowlers will be relieved that he is on our side from now on!

“It will be a new challenge for him in a new environment and a slightly different role as an elder statesman.

“But the fact we can persuade a player of Riki’s quality to join us shows what we are about as a club — one that is going forward.

“The ground and the facilities sell themselves and the side is doing the same now.”

Worcestershire will bid to make an instant return to County Championship Division One in 2019 after their relegation and continue to make a big impact in the Royal London One-Day Cup and also the Vitality Blast which they won this year.

Wessels said: “Leaving Nottinghamshire was a difficult decision to make.

“I’ve spent eight years at Trent Bridge and enjoyed being part of successful teams that challenged for trophies but now is the right time for me to make a change.

“Worcestershire will provide a new challenge and I’m really looking forward to starting another chapter of my career at a club that I have a lot of admiration for.”

Australian-born Wessels, who obtained British citizenship in 2016, has a fine record in first-class cricket but is also a destructive hitter in the white-ball format.

County fans saw Wessels hit nine sixes in making 55 for Notts in the Vitality Blast at Blackfinch New Road this summer.

Wessels, who played for Northamptonshire before joining Nottinghamshire in 2011, has scored 10,740 first-class runs at an average of 36.04.

He has amassed 4,452 List A and 4,689 T20 runs at averages of 30.70 and 29.12 respectively.

Wessels, who hails from Queensland but grew up in South Africa, has played in the Big Bash T20 competition in Australia for Sydney Sixers.

He is the son of former Australia and South Africa international Kepler Wessels.

“We’d like to thank Riki for his contribution to the side over the many years he’s spent here at Trent Bridge,” said Notts director of cricket Mick Newell.

“However, both parties feel that now is the right time for a change and for Riki to move on. We wish him luck for the future.”