Amla in the frame for return as Essex overseas player

Essex have expressed an interest in bringing Hashim Amla back to Chelmsford for the first couple of months of next season, I understand.

As Essex are likely to lose Owais Shah, Ryan ten Doeschate and possibly Ravi Bopara to the IPL, which would rule them out of county cricket for the start of the 2012 campaign, the 28 year-old Amla is seen as an ideal overseas short-term replacement should his services not be required in that competition.

The South African batsman made a huge impression at the Ford County Ground during his brief stay in 2009 when he scored 410 first-class runs in three County Championship matches at an average of 103.50 that included two centuries and a fifty in five innings. One of those centuries was a match-saving 181 on his debut, the highest score by an Essex debutant, and he also scored 111 against Sussex in one of his only two 40-over league matches.

While South Africa are due to tour England next year between July and September, it is hoped that the South Africa Cricket Board may allow Amla, who has also played for Nottinghamshire, another opportunity to acclimatise to English conditions ahead of the Test and one-day series.

Essex’s exciting leg-spinner Tom Craddock, meanwhile, has put pen to paper on a two-year deal with the club.

The 22-year-old Huddersfield-born player had caught the eye when playing against them for the Unicorns in their Clydesdale Bank 40 matches and was offered a two-month trial in June – later extended to the end of the season – making an immediate impact when taking seven wickets in an innings in a Second XI match with Sussex to earn himself a place in the Championship side, which he has since retained.

Craddock has taken 19 wickets in five Championship matches and has also forced his way into the 40-overs line-up as Essex seem to have gone some way towards plugging the gap left by Pakistani leg-spinner Danish Kaneria who was not re-engaged this summer.

“‘I’ve always wanted to make cricket my career and I’m delighted that Essex have given me the opportunity,” said Craddock. “Things have happened quickly for me this year but that’s good. Obviously I’m learning all the time but I’ve been pleased with my progress so far. Hopefully I can repay the faith that Essex have shown in me by taking plenty of wickets and helping them to success in the future.”

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