Derbyshire have completed the signing of Usman Khawaja for the second half of the 2012 season, thus giving them the same combination of young international talent to fill their overseas player role that they had last year.
This time, New Zealand opening batsman Martin Guptill will start the season at the County Ground and 25-year-old Australian left-hander Khawaja will take over from June 14, the start of the t20 campaign, when Guptill leaves to join the Black Caps on their tour to the West Indies.
Guptill had the longer spell and left the deeper impression with his batting in 2011, while Khawaja arrived injured and had his stay cut short by a call-up for an Australian training camp.
But he did hit a majestic 135 in his last County Championship match at Canterbury and finished with a first-class average of 39.87 in four matches for the county, as well as averaging 38.75 in five Clydesdale Bank 40 games with a match-winning 89 not out at Worcester.
“We only saw what he was truly capable of on the field at the end of his time but he is clearly a very fine player and was very good around the changing room,” said head coach Karl Krikken.
“I spoke to Usie last week and he was very keen to come back and do a job for us and part of the reason for that was because he realised how much good playing in county cricket could be for his game. We’re really looking forward to having him back.”
Since his spell with Derbyshire, Khawaja has played five more Tests for Australia – two in Sri Lanka, one in South Africa and two against New Zealand.
He hit a career-high 65 in the second innings at the Wanderers to top-score and help his side chase down 310 to beat South Africa. He now averages 29.22 in Tests but lost his place for the current series against India to Shaun Marsh.
In his only Sheffield Shield match so far this season for New South Wales, Khawaja scored his ninth first-class hundred and he also struck 116 in his only one-day match for NSW. His career Shield average is over 53.
The only potential hitch to prevent Khawaja playing the whole of the last three months of the season for Derbyshire is an Australia A tour to England – which includes a three-day fixture at Derby – from July 24 to August 17.
“We don’t think at the moment we will lose Usie for that but if we do, we will have a contingency plan,” added Krikken.