Lancashire have significantly strengthened their batting line-up ahead of next season’s County Championship defence by signing Ashwell Prince, the South African who is already a popular figure at Old Trafford after two previous stints with the club in the last three years.
The left-hander, who turns 35 in May, will be available for the start of the season and could easily be that rare beast, an overseas player of proven quality who can stay for the whole summer – although he will hope to score enough runs in the early months to force his way back into South Africa’s Test squad for their tour of England in July and August.
Prince has been out of the one-day picture for years, and also lost his place in the Test set-up during the recent series against Sri Lanka. He was not selected for the current tour of New Zealand, but does still have a central contract.
His links with Lancashire go back more than a decade, to a couple of stints with Morecambe, but it was in 2009 – Peter Moores’s first as coach – that he first linked up with the county, after being employed by Nottinghamshire the previous year.
He made an immediate impact with a key contribution to an opening Championship win against Sussex at Hove and a match-saving century against his former employers at Old Trafford, and averaged 62 when he made way for VVS Laxman in June of that year.
Lancashire were therefore delighted to bring him back at the start of the following summer when their plans to sign Kumar Sangakkara were scuppered by Sri Lanka’s unpredictable international schedule, and again he helped them get off to a good start in the Championship with 450 runs at almost 41.
Last season Lancashire struggled through without an overseas batsman, although the all-rounder Farveez Maharoof did make a couple of important contributions with the bat. But the retirement of Mark Chilton has left an obvious hole in the middle order for which Prince would seem a perfect fit.
“I am delighted to be returning to Lancashire for the 2012 season,” he said. “I love the place and how the lads go about their work. I’m really looking forward to joining up with the squad in early April and contributing to a successful campaign.”
Moores added: “It is fantastic news that Ashwell has rejoined the club. He is a tough competitor who has enjoyed success here before and he will bring some maturity to an emerging squad.”
The announcement came on the eve of Lancashire putting tickets for all domestic matches on sale, through the club’s official website (www.lccc.co.uk) or the ticket office (0161 282 4040 or 08444 999 666). The one-day international between England and Australia at Old Trafford on July 10 is approaching a sell-out.