Worcestershire will today confirm the signing of Steve Magoffin as an overseas player for the first part of the 2008 season.
The tall Australian seamer will arrive in good time to start the season at the beginning of April and is expected to remain at New Road until the start of June. The club are still hoping to add an overseas Twenty20 specialist to the squad for the following month while Bajan fast bowler Fidel Edwards will arrive at New Road in July.
Magoffin was not the club's first choice. They had attempted to sign New Zealand's Shane Bond, Australian Ashley Noffke and Pakistan's Umar Gul, at least two of whom have greater international reputations, but such is the strength in depth of cricket in Australia that Magoffin's comparative low profile should not be mistaken for a lack of quality.
He is sharp of pace and capable of generating bounce as well as swing from a pleasing high action. Although he is relatively inexperienced for a man of his age (he has played just 38 first-class games, despite being 28 years old), he has enjoyed brief spells in England before.
Last season, he represented Surrey in one County Championship match while he played for both Surrey and Leicestershire 2nd XIs in 2006. He comes strongly recommended by former New Road player and director of cricket Tom Moody and has been under consideration since Christmas.
"He's a bit like Glenn McGrath," said Worcestershire director of cricket Steve Rhodes. "He hits the deck hard and has a very good economy rate. That's important as it shows he bowls in good areas, which is especially important early in the season and he's desperate to do well as he feels he has something to prove.
Magoffin's arrival completes a radical overhaul of Worcestershire's bowling resources. Rhodes made the brave decision to stage a 'clear-out' at the end of last season after it became clear that several of the team of 2007 were not up to the standard required for Division One cricket.
Out went Nadeem Malik, Doug Bollinger, Roger Sillence, Dewald Nel and Stuart Wedge and in have come Magoffin, Chris Whelan, Gareth Andrew, Simon Jones, Mehraj Ahmed and Edwards.
With Matt Mason now well on the road to recovery after injury, the club has greater strength in depth of bowling resources than for some years.
"The clear-out was a risk," Rhodes admitted, "as you can never guarantee that you can bring in new people but, hopefully, people can see that things are coming together now.
I don't want to put too much pressure on Simon or Matt, so it's important that we have strength in depth. I'm really pleased with the blend."
Magoffin, who will arrive for the final pre-season game against Here-fordshire on April 12, has enjoyed an excellent Pura Cup season in Australia. He has claimed 29 wickets at 23.31 (and an economy rate of 2.32 runs per over) for Western Australia, though his record in limited-overs cricket is less impressive.
Worcestershire are still assessing their options for the Twenty20 Cup campaign. The news yesterday that the England & Wales Cricket Board are to harden their stance against players taking part in unauthorised competitions, however, means that Worcestershire are highly unlikely to consider anyone taking part in the Indian Cricket League.
"We want to achieve big things for Worcestershire," Rhodes said. "If we were to win a club challenge in India, we would be rated the best team in the world, so we would have a big decision to make before jeopardising that."
Quite where the ECB's decision leaves the captains of Worcestershire and Warwickshire - Vikram Solanki and Darren Maddy - who both agreed contracts with the ICL long before any objections were raised, remains a mystery.
Meanwhile, Worcestershire will today also announce an agreement with Kidderminster Victoria Cricket Club that will formalise the clubs' position on the county utilising the Chester Road ground in the event of flooding at New Road.
In return, the county will invest £50,000 into the Chester Road ground over a five-year period. The first priority will be improving facilities for players and umpires.
Worcestershire's chief executive, Mark Newton, said: "Our relationship with Kidderminster goes back many years and, last summer, they really helped us when we needed it.
"By the end of the summer, it became clear that we needed to develop a robust contingency plan to deal with any repeat in future years and a key part of this plan is to secure an alternative venue at short notice in an emergency. This agreement is initially for five years and will mean we can transfer first XI cricket at 48 hours' notice if necessary."
Norman Broadfield, chairman of Chester Road Sports & Social Club Ltd who own the Kidderminster ground, said: "We are proud of our long and successful relationship with the county and are committed to helping them out in the name of cricket if the unthinkable happens and history repeats itself.
"We have agreed to support their endeavours after discussions with the Birmingham and Worcestershire Cricket Leagues, who have, in turn, both been very supportive.
"We are all grateful for their approach and will work together to resolve any problems if flooding disrupts the Worcestershire season again".