With the start of the 2014 county season now in sight Northamptonshire and Durham have bolstered their squads by signing overseas players Richard Levi and John Hastings.
Northamptonshire have, however, suffered a blow with the news that overseas fast-bowler Jackson Bird has had his contract downgraded to six LV= County Championship after discussions with Cricket Australia. The defence of their T20 crown has also been dealt a setback with the news that captain Alex Wakely will be out of action for a sizeable chunk of the season after sustaining an Achilles’ injury during the first game of the club’s pre-season tour of Barbados.
The Steelbacks went onto finish as runners-up to Nottinghamshire in the customary pre-season T20 tournament played on the island, one that also included teams such as Warwickshire, a local Combined Campuses & Colleges side and Hampshire.
Northants chief executive David Smith said of Levi’s re-signing: “Richard made a big impression last summer in T20 cricket, with match winning innings at Cheltenham, Worcester and in the semi-final match against Essex. He gives us the necessary fire power in the first six overs that are so vital to posting a competitive score in T20 cricket.”
Of Bird’s contract downgrade he add, “Jackson’s original contract was for ten LV= County Championship and seven NatWest T20 Blast matches. The reduced schedule will see the club try and secure a second overseas bowler, for a further six LVCC games. Our aim is to find someone that will be able to play in both the NatWest T20 Blast and LV= County Championship. David Ripley is currently drawing up a shortlist of potential overseas players.”
Durham first-team coach Jon Lewis, meanwhile, professed himself excited about the addition of sometime Australian all-rounder Hastings to the county’s squad. “We are excited about the arrival of John,” he said. “He is skilful with the ball and can also contribute well with the bat. He will be a strong addition with the red and white ball and we look forward to welcoming him to Durham”
Hastings will link up with Durham following his stint in the Indian Premier League, which is due to finish in early June, and will then be available for all three forms of the game. The Victoria player, who has represented Australia in all forms of international cricket, was due to play for Sussex in the 2013 Friends Life t20 but was forced to withdraw due to injury.
© Cricket World 2014