Warwickshire have beaten off competition from a number of counties to secure the services of wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Ambrose on a three-year deal.
The signing is a real coup for Warwickshire. In recent years, they have lost out in attempts to lure players to Edgbaston (Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, Darren Gough, Jon Lewis and Andy Caddick to name but a few) and this early success bodes well for Mark Greatbatch's tenure as coach.
In beating Yorkshire and his present county, Sussex, to the deal, they have secured a decent wicketkeeper and a very promising batsman. Ambrose - who will be 23 in December - has a bright future.
"It was a tough decision to make but it's one that gives me a tremendous opportunity to further develop my game with one of the best clubs in the country," Australia-born Ambrose said.
"He ticks all the boxes," Greatbatch explained. "He has a difficult time when Matt Prior replaced him but he fought back hard.
"I saw him play against Warwickshire in the Second XI Trophy and I've spoken to him quite a lot. I'm sure he has the ability and the character to do very well."
Ambrose has not signed for Warwickshire in order to play second XI cricket. He will immediately compete for a first-team place with Tony Frost - seven years his senior - with both men to be given opportunities in preseason games.
Judging by the extended length of his contract - and the fact that Frost was not offered an extension to his - Warwickshire would appear to see Ambrose as a first-team player.
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The hope is that the competition for places will benefit both players, though Frost is clearly considering a move to pastures new.
Despite having a year remaining on his contract, his comments last night hardly suggested unbridled enthusiasm for remaining with the club.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," Frost told The Post. "If I stay at Warwickshire, then nothing has changed; there have always been two keepers wanting to play first-team cricket."
The 'if' is telling.
Frost's reaction is understandable. He was a key performer in the Championship triumph and until the final few weeks of last season, he performed as well with the gloves as at any time in his career.
Despite a generally disappointing season with the bat, he did produce key innings in the C&G semifinal against Lancashire and the Championship draw against Kent. Yet the club clearly required another quality keeper and the needs of the team must outweigh individual considerations.
Warwickshire also confirmed the signing of 23-yearold seamer Lee Daggett and 21-year-old Tim Groenewald. Daggett, who took eight for 94 for Durham UCCE against Durham in 2004, has been offered a one-year deal, while Groenewald, who has agreed a two-year-deal, is an allrounder in the Dougie Brown mould.
Nick James, the England Under-19 left-hander, has also been offered a one-year deal, while two university students, 19-year-old Navdeep Poonia and 22-year-old Luke Parker, have both been offered summer contracts.
Meanwhile, Jim Troughton has also agreed a one-year extension to his contract, securing his future at Edgbaston until the end of 2007.
One man who will certainly not be returning, however, is Dewald Pretorius. The fast bowler has accepted that his body is not suited to the strains of county cricket and has confirmed his decision not to return next season.
Although the news will surprise no-one, it will still come as a disappointment to many supporters. Pretorius, an amiable character and a whole-hearted performer, endured two lean years at Warwickshire.
He rarely achieved fitness and his final first-class tally for the club of 36 wickets at 38.88 was a meagre return for one who had played Test cricket just months before his signing.
Nor will Sajid Mahmood be joining Warwickshire. Lancashire have confirmed that the fast bowler will remain at Old Trafford until at least the end of 2006.
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