Essex keep new international star under wraps

ESSEX’S pre-season “nightmare” is at an end.

The county’s search for an international overseas bowler has finally borne fruit on the eve of the 2011 season.

Head coach Paul Grayson, who had previously described the on-going search as a “nightmare” for the county, revealed news of the signing in an exclusive interview with me at yesterday’s Press Day at Chelmsford.

Grayson, however, was staying tight-lipped on the player’s name, leading to inevitable speculation as to his identity.

Two players who have been previously linked with the answer to Essex’s conundrum are South African Lonwabo Tsotobe and New Zealand’s Kyle Mills, both of whom played in the World Cup on the subcontinent.

Essex last month signed Australian Peter Siddle, one of the home team’s few players to emerge from this winter’s Ashes Series with his reputation enhanced.

However, after Siddle pulled out of the deal for personal reasons, Essex turned their attentions to New Zealand’s Tim Southee, who likewise committed himself to the county only to instead take up the offer of a contract in the Indian Premier League.

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Grayson said: “We have been let down by a couple of players – Siddle had signed and Southee had signed, but we did finally sign a bowler yesterday, although we are not going to announce who it is until the back end of the week.

“He should be here for next week’s County Championship match at Lord’s against Middlesex. He is an international bowler who is a current Test cricketer, so we are delighted to get someone in at last.

“We have signed him for two months, which will take us to the start of the Twenty20 competition when Scott Styris is back, and we are hoping to have another T20 player on board as well.

“After the Twenty20, whether we then sign someone will depend upon finances and also what the pitches are doing and where we feel we are as a squad.

“I think the days of signing an overseas player for a full summer are probably gone due to the amount of international cricket now being played as well as the IPL.

“I think this gives us a bit of breathing space to see how people are performing – how we are batting, how we are bowling – and do we want to strengthen in any one area for the second half of the season.

“We are all very aware that the first two months of County Championship cricket will set up our season as we have eight games.”

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