Leicestershire have made a double Pakistan pace bowler signing for the 2018 season, with Paul Nixon beginning his tenure as head coach by bringing in Mohammad Abbas and Sohail Khan to share overseas player duties.
Abbas, 27, has made a good impression since his Test debut last year, taking 23 wickets at 21.34 in five matches. He will be available for Leicestershire’s first Championship match, starting on April 20, and then again from mid-June – given his likely involvement with Pakistan’s tour of England and Ireland during the first half of the season.
Sohail, an experienced seamer who has played all three formats for Pakistan and claimed Test five-fors at Edgbaston and The Oval in 2016, will deputise while Abbas is away. He could feature in four Championship games, as well as Leicestershire’s Royal London Cup campaign.
“We have been looking for a quality fast bowler as our overseas professional and Mohammad Abbas ticks all of the boxes,” Nixon said. “His Test match record is different class, he is the new kid on the block, and I am delighted to secure his signature.
“But we expect to be without Mohammad for the first part of the season and it was vital that we secured high-class cover. Sohail Khan has a superb record both in red- and white-ball cricket, he has good experience on English conditions, and really stood out on the last tour when Pakistan played here. Sohail’s bowling will be ideally suited to early season conditions here.”
Leicestershire finished bottom of the Championship in 2017, for the fourth time in five seasons, and replaced coach Pierre de Bruyn after less than a year in charge. Clint McKay, who had spent three seasons as Leicestershire’s overseas player, was also not asked to return.
Nixon, a long-serving former player at Leicestershire, has returned to try and build on the work started by chief executive Wasim Khan. In 2015, Leicestershire won their first Championship fixture in almost three years, while the following season they improved enough to finish seventh in Division Two – although they have still faced criticism for their recruitment policies.
Abbas follows in the footsteps of recent Pakistan internationals to sign for Leicestershire, such as Umar Akmal and Abdul Razzaq. His first-class record is impressive, with 304 wickets at 21.05, and he is also expected to play in the T20 Blast, filling one of the two overseas slots.
“I am really pleased to be joining Leicestershire County Cricket Club for the 2018 season,” he said. “It has been a dream of mine to play in county cricket and I am looking forward to meeting my new team-mates and working with head coach Paul Nixon and the staff.”