County news February 24, 2016

Afridi joins Hampshire for full T20 Blast

ESPNcricinfo staff

Hampshire have pulled off a significant signing by securing Shahid Afridi for the full duration of the NatWest T20 Blast.

He previously played for the club in 2011 when Hampshire reached the semi-finals where Afridi hit 80 off 42 balls against Somerset. He will join the South African allrounder, Ryan McLaren, at the Ageas Bowl.

Afridi, who has revealed he is facing pressure not to retire from international T20s, will arrive for the beginning of Hampshire's campaign in May and, unlike many other start names in the tournament, will not take his leave having not secured a Caribbean Premier League deal and, for now at least, not having international commitments.

Giles White, Hampshire's director of cricket, said: "This year it has been a challenge to get the top players over for significant periods of the Blast so we are delighted that he is available for the entire tournament. Shahid made a huge impression last time he was with us and his return is a major boost ahead of our T20 campaign."

The Blast has attracted a strong collection of leading players for the 2016 season - including Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum - but the elongated nature of the tournament, which is played throughout the season, largely on Friday nights, from mid-May until late July followed by the knockouts later in August, means players often cannot stay for the duration.

This is set to be the last season with the Blast in its current format. From 2017 it is expected to switch to a two division structure, rather than regional groups, with promotion and relegation. The 2016 tournament would, therefore, decide who starts in Division One - the eight quarter-finalists plus the next-highest finishing side in the group stages.

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