Worcestershire bowling coach Matt Mason believes spinner Saeed Ajmal is "back to somewhere near his best" after he helped to put his side in command of the LV = County Championship clash with Hampshire at New Road.

Ajmal returned first innings figures of 5-28 from 17 overs as Hampshire were forced to follow on 295 runs in arrears and picked up another wicket in the second innings as they closed on 164-6.

Pace trio Joe Leach, Jack Shantry and Charlie Morris provided the perfect foil to Ajmal as Worcestershire took major steps towards a second LV = CC win of the campaign.

Mason said: "It was a fabulous day. The bowlers stuck to their task. It is never easy when you ask a team to follow on. It means a big effort from the bowling group and the fielding group.

"But I guess when you ask a team to follow on, it means you made some pretty good runs first innings as well so it is all very positive at the moment.

"We've still got four wickets to pick up in the morning we are going to have to work pretty hard for those four wickets, I'm sure.

"But I couldn't be happier with the bowling group. They've been terrific.

"Where the guys have been fantastic is they've got the ball to do something through the air.

"They recognise that it is a dry pitch, not a lot of grass. They got the ball into a state where they could get it to reverse and Joe Leach in particular was devastating with that reverse swing, keeper up to the stumps, just looking to bowl straight.

"And they just executed their plans, backed up by Saeed who looked the most threatening he has all year and I'd say he was back to somewhere near his best, watching him bowl the last day or so.

"You can see the uncertainty in the batsmen in trying to play him and pick him even. When he is in that form, and you've got Joe, Charlie and Shants working away at their end, it makes a formidable opposition for any batting side.

"I'm just chuffed to bits with the effort. They worked so hard and they got their rewards and I'm so pleased for them."

Mason was full of praise for the work put in by Ajmal to remodel his action as he returned his first five wicket haul since last August.

He said: "Credit to Saeed. Not only did he remodel his action, he found out new ways of getting people out.

"It must be so mentally tough to go through that but he is such a lovely man, he loves his cricket so much that it never would have stopped him from trying and now he is getting some rewards for all that hard work he has put in.

"He would like to let the people not only in Worcester, but also back in Pakistan cricket, that he is not a spent force in cricket.

"When he returned to their side, I'm sure it was probably a little bit too soon. He will get great confidence if he keeps bowling like that for us and hopefully the selectors back there are watching for him because I'm sure he still wants to play international cricket."

*Worcestershire are offering free admission for anyone who wants to attend the fourth day of the Hampshire game tomorrow. Play gets underway at 11am.