Paul Horton is gaining early dividends from his unorthodox decision to head for Zimbabwe in a bid to bounce back from a couple of lean seasons.
The Sydney-born Lancashire opener is spending the winter with the Matabeleland Tuskers, and in his third appearance he hit a Twenty20 best unbeaten 71 off 56 balls to steer them to victory over Mountaineers in Harare.
He wasn’t the only familiar face in the game, as he opened the batting with Warwickshire’s Neil Carter, and Lance Klusener took the new ball for the Mountaineers – while Horton’s coach with the Tuskers is Dave Houghton, the former Zimbabwe captain who has held off-field roles with Worcestershire and Derbyshire.
“Horts wasn’t happy with his season, and he’s been given the chance to go out there and work with Dave Houghton, who’s a good batting coach,” explained Lancashire’s director of cricket Mike Watkinson.
“As far as I know he’ll be playing first-class cricket after these Twenty20 games, so let’s hope he comes back with some fresh input and has a good year with us next summer.”
Horton was an ever-present in Lancashire’s County Championship campaign but managed only 634 runs from 30 innings, the second consecutive season in which he has failed to average 30 in first-class cricket.
But he made a positive impression filling in as captain of a young team in the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition later in the summer when Glen Chapple was injured, showing how much faith Lancashire have in him for the future.
Meanwhile, Watkinson has reiterated his warning that the county are likely to start next season without an overseas player or any other major signings.
“Most counties are having to tighten their belts financially, and we are no different,” Watkinson wrote in his Manchester Evening News column.
“Cricket hasn’t escaped the difficulties caused by the recession, and that alone would force us to look closely at our budgets. On top of that we are redeveloping Old Trafford which, when it is finished, will become one of the best stadiums in the world. The longer term benefits will be significant but, as you can imagine, that doesn’t come cheap.
“It all means we have short-term restrictions in terms of the finances we have for player recruitment and it is unlikely we will be adding to our squad for next season.”
That rules out a move for Jamie Dalrymple or any other Glamorgan players who may become available following the recent upheaval in Cardiff.