Siddle signing off so Essex chase Southee

Essex’s hopes of signing Australian fast bowler Peter Siddle appear to have been dashed. I understand that the Victoria quickie has now made himself unavailable for personal reasons, leaving Essex desperately seeking a suitable alternative with the start of the County Championship season less than a fortnight away.

They had wanted Siddle, who was one of the few Aussies to impress during the winter Ashes series with England, to bolster their new ball attack as they attempt to regain their place in Division One at the first attempt and, with eight matches in the first two months of the season, Essex are keen to be up with the pace-setters from the off.

Now they will have to re-consider their overseas choice, and it is believed that New Zealand pace bowler Tim Southee heads the list of desired replacements.

Southee, the 22-year-old right-arm swing bowler has made rapid career progress since being named the Player of the Tournament during the Under-19 World Cup in 2008 where he took 17 wickets to help the young Black Caps into the semi-finals.

Just a few weeks later, aged 19, he made his Test debut for New Zealand against England and took 5 for 55 before following up with a stunning 77 in the second innings that included nine sixes from just 40 balls.

Essex will now need to move quickly if they are to draft Kiwi Southee, or indeed any other choice, into their squad for the start of the campaign.

However, there was some good news awaiting head coach Paul Grayson on his return from the county’s pre-season trip to Barbados.

Paceman Maurice Chambers has fully recovered from the hamstring problem that forced him to return home prematurely from the England Lions tour of the Caribbean and he will be available for the opening Championship match against Kent, starting on April 8.

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