There has been plenty of action off the field since the county cricket season ended last week. The most notable news is that Jos Buttler has signed for Lancashire and Will Smith has moved from Durham to Hampshire.
Lancashire have confirmed that they have signed Somerset wicket-keeper Jos Buttler. Buttler was released by Somerset last week at his own request as he seeks a spot as a regular first-team wicket-keeper; something which was denied him at Taunton by the presence of Craig Kieswetter.
Lancashire had already released their usual gloveman Gareth Cross, with Alex Davies set to provide back-up to Buttler when he is called away on one-day duty with England.
Widely seen as one of the most talented players of his generation, Buttler has already played several times for England and is one of the front-runners to succeed Matt Prior long-term as England’s Test wicket-keeper. At Old Trafford he will work with Peter Moores, who played an important role in Prior’s development while he was coach at Sussex.
Moores said of his new charge: “It is great news Jos will be joining us and he will become part of a highly competitive squad. His style of cricket will add value to the team in all formats of the game and his potential as a player is very exciting."
Buttler has strong connections with his now former club Somerset and his loss will, in many circles, be seen as a particularly sad one. He alluded to the role that Somerset have played in his development when reflecting on his move to the north-west.
“I am delighted to be joining Lancashire County Cricket Club,” he said. “They have a strong squad and are very ambitious to build on this season’s achievement. The club has an exceptional coaching staff which will help me to continue to develop as a keeper batsman.
“Emirates Old Trafford is a world class venue and has tremendous state-of-the-art facilities for cricketers. I really enjoyed playing there earlier this month for England and hope to be involved in next year’s One-Day International against Sri Lanka.
“Finally, I want to pay a special thanks to everybody at Somerset. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and will leave with plenty of good memories.”
Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes has received the prestigious Cricket Writers’ Club Young Cricketer of the Year award at their lunch in London today. The award is open to any England-qualified player under the age of 23 on 1st May and recent recipients include Joe Root, Steven Finn and Ravi Bopara.
22-year-old Stokes scored 615 runs at an average of 27.95 and took 42 wickets at 26.57 in Durham’s Championship-winning side. The award caps a rollercoaster 12 months for the New Zealand-born player, who was sent home from a Lions tour last winter due to disciplinary problems. He turned his year around by starting the season well for Durham and going onto earn a England ODI call-up and, most recently, a place in England’s winter Ashes squad.
Meanwhile, Wayne Madsen succeeded Nick Compton as the winner of the County Player of the Year award. The Derbyshire captain almost single-handedly kept his side’s batting afloat as they battled, ultimately in vain, to avoid relegation. He scored 1,221 runs at the top of the county’s batting line-up and was the first player to reach the 1,000 run milestone.
The counties have agreed the provisional schedule for the 2014 season reports the Daily Telegraph. The most notable point to come out of the meeting at Lord’s was that all of the group matches in the new 50-over competition will be played during the school holidays - more specifically between the 26th July and 21st August. The final will again be towards the end of the season on 20th September.
The first round of LV= County Championship matches will commence on 6th April, with the last beginning on 23rd September. It was also confirmed that the first 16 rounds will all start on a Sunday in order to give supporters a more predictable fixture list. In line with this, Natwest T20 matches will be played on Fridays throughout the season from mid-May. Finals Day is scheduled for the 23rd August. The final 2014 fixture list is expected to be released in November.
Hampshire have signed recently-released Durham batsman Will Smith on a two-year deal. Smith, 31, was a stalwart in the Durham middle-order in 2013, but was released as the club were forced to slash their wage bill.
Smith, who has also played for Nottinghamshire and captained Durham to the title in 2009, said, “I’m delighted to sign with Hampshire and really excited by the opportunity to represent a club for whom I have the utmost respect. The Royals possess an immensely gifted squad of cricketers, which I am over the moon to now be a part of and looking forward to the team pursuit of winning some silverware in 2014.”
Smith was one of a number of contract decisions that Hampshire announced today. 22 year-old batsman Sean Terry was rewarded for a strong end to the 2013 season with a two-year deal, while Lewis McManus and Tom Barber impressed sufficiently in the second XI to be awarded one-year scholarship contracts. McManus, a wicket-keeper-batsman, averaged 36 in the Second XI Championship, while fast-bowler Barber took 10 wickets at 35.7 in the same competition.
Hampshire manager Giles White said of Terry’s new deal: “Sean had an opportunity to impress at the back end of the year and did just that. He is a popular member of the squad, has a good attitude and thoroughly deserves his graduation onto the full staff. If is now important for him to keep improving and to push himself into the reckoning for the start of next season.”
As ever, there are losers as well as winners, with seamer Hamza Riazuddin announcing his retirement from professional cricket at the age of 23 due to a lack of first-team opportunities. Opener Michael Roberts, wicket-keeper Adam Rouse, and fast-bowler Jack Sheppard will not be offered new deals, while batsman Jake George has left to begin a degree course at Durham University.
Gloucestershire have signed 23-year-old opening batsman Will Tavaré on a one-year contract. Tavaré is the nephew of former England Test opener Chris and has already played first-class cricket for Loughborough MCCU, where he studied for a degree in human biology.
Gloucestershire Director of Cricket, John Bracewell, said: “Will has been our leading run-scorer in second XI cricket and is a player we have helped develop at the same time as he has been helping himself.
“He is a top order batsman, who deserves the opportunity to move up and provide extra competition for our batting places. We need three openers in our squad and Will’s signing to join Michael Klinger and Chris Dent in the squad means that is the case.”
Tavaré added: “I come from a cricketing family and it has always been my ambition to play cricket professionally so I am very excited at the opportunity Gloucestershire are giving me. A few things clicked for me this summer and it was my best season with the bat. I went to Melbourne to play for a club there last winter, which helped my development, and I am delighted to be going back there before teaming up with Gloucestershire in March.”
Kent all-rounder Darren Stevens has told BBC Kent that he fears the double-century with which he ended the county season last week could prove to be his last innings as a professional cricketer.
The 37 year-old was charged earlier in the year with failing to report a corrupt approach whilst playing in the Bangladesh Premier League and faces a ban of up to five years if found guilty when the hearing is held this winter.
"It could be [my last game] and I'm very proud and honoured to have done what I've done at Kent and fingers crossed it carries on," Stevens said.
"As everybody knows it's been quite a tough year to be fair since it all kicked off on 8 April. It's been going on all summer so it's been an emotional summer and cricket's actually got me by with what's been going on. Fingers crossed it doesn't stop there but there is every chance it could do."
Stevens’ double-hundred against Division Two champions Lancashire capped another successful season which saw him win the 2013 Walter Lawrence Trophy. The trophy is awarded to the player who hit the fastest hundred of the season in any first-team cricket. Stevens reached three figures off just 44 balls during a Yorkshire Bank 40 match against Sussex on 19th June.
Heather Knight won the women’s award, which is awarded for the highest score of the season, for her magnificent 157 against Australia during the Ashes Test, while Durham MCCU opener Ivo Hobson won the MCC Universities award for his 129 against Cambridge MCCU.
Former Middlesex wicket-keeper and current fielding coach Ben Scott is to trek up Mount Kilimanjaro next month in aid of Help for Heroes. You can donate by visiting his Bmycharity page.
© Cricket World 2013