County news May 8, 2012

Shahzad to join Lancashire

Ajmal Shahzad, the former England seamer who was released by Yorkshire in controversial circumstances last week, has joined Lancashire.

Shahzad was made available to other counties after Yorkshire's chairman Colin Graves accused him of not being a team player. He has moved to Lancashire on a loan deal until the end of the season with a view to agreeing a more permanent contract at a later date.

The attraction for Lancashire is obvious. The defending champions have lost three of their first four games and currently find themselves just four points off the bottom of the division one championship table.

Shgahzad tweeted: "Great feeling to be back into cricket today! Appreciate Lancashire for having me on a loan agreement till the end of the season."

Lancashire's cricket director Mike Watkinson said: "With Tom Smith being ruled out for at least a month after tearing a hamstring and Pakistan set to announce this week their squad for a series in Sri Lanka this summer, which could mean us missing out on bringing Junaid back, the availability of a hugely talented and experienced bowler comes at a good time for us."

Although Shahzad's first-class record is modest - he has a bowling average of 33.80 and an underwhelming economy rate in both limited-overs formats - he has long been seen as a cricketer of rich potential and Lancashire will hope that Peter Moores' sympathetic man management will coax the best out of him. Shahzad has played one Test, 11 ODIs and three T20Is for England.

"We are delighted to bring a bowler of Ajmal's quality into our squad," Moores said. "He will join a strong seam attack, giving us the depth needed to compete on all fronts. He is known for his competitive nature, which will fit perfectly into the set-up at Lancashire."

As if the failure to harness Shahzad's potential was not painful enough, the fact that the player has joined their keenest rivals will sting some at Yorkshire, a deal also brokered by a former Lancashire player, Neil Fairbrother, who is Shahzad's agent.

Eight years ago he became the first Yorkshire-born cricketer of Pakistani background to represent Yorkshire and is the first Yorkshire player to move to Lancashire since David Byas did so in 2002.

Shahzad had also interested Sussex, Somerset and Surrey, among others, and his quick tour of England last week to talk to potential suitors emphasised that many counties did not share Yorkshire's reservations about his talent or commitment.

Yorkshire's relationship with Shahzad deteriorated over time because in his eyes they were insisting that he bowled out of character, insisting on a disciplined - he thought regimented - approach with little forgiveness for experimentation. Moores' challenge is to integrate a dedicated but strong-willed cricketer with an appetite for innovation into a team pattern.

Yorkshire sought to e nsure that Shahzad left on a happy note with the county's official Twitter feed stating: "Wishing @AJShahzad all best with Lanky! Real shame it didn't work out at #yccc. Both parties on different cricket pages but a genuine talent. Ajmal had different thoughts on how his cricket should go than club. He wasn't happy. Threatened positive atmosphere in squad. No one at club is happy that Ajmal has gone and we do genuinely wish him well."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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