County news December 1, 2009

Surrey make bid for Rory Hamilton-Brown

Surrey have made an audacious bid to lure Rory Hamilton-Brown, the Sussex allrounder, back to The Oval and are believed to be ready to offer him the captaincy. Sussex have called the approach "unwelcome" and are considering their options.

Hamilton-Brown, 22, began his career with Surrey but struggled to establish himself in the first team and moved to Sussex in 2008 where his game has developed, especially in the one-day format. He made a mark in the Championship towards the end of last summer with a career-best 171 against Yorkshire. However, his first-class career equates to the grand total of eight games. He is currently with the England performance squad in Pretoria as a level B player, meaning the selectors view him as being one to three years away from international level.

"This approach is most unwelcome and the timing is very unfortunate when Rory should be focussing on his time in the England performance programme as he seeks a place in the England Lions squad after Christmas," Jim May, the Sussex chairman, said. "We had already offered Rory a contract extension on improved terms prior to the official approach from Surrey.

"We regard him highly as a player who has developed well since joining us. At the age of 22, Rory has very strong potential to develop an excellent career with Sussex, where we strongly believe his cricketing development will be best served. This is a complex situation as we have absolutely no wish to lose a player of Rory's potential, and we will consider our response carefully before any further communication."

Surrey, who confirmed they approached Hamilton-Brown on November 13, are still searching for a long-term captaincy successor to Mark Butcher who retired midway through last season with a persistent knee injury. Michael Brown had the role at the beginning of 2009 after his move from Hampshire, but by the end of the season it had passed to the relatively unknown 26-year-old Stewart Walters, who made a positive impression despite Surrey's poor season.

It would be a huge gamble from Surrey to put the captaincy in Hamilton-Brown's hands with his only previous leadership experience being a short spell as England Under-19 skipper and it would make him the youngest captain in the county game.

Hamilton-Brown is the latest target of Chris Adams, the former Sussex captain and now Surrey cricket manager, as he strengthens his squad ahead of the 2010 campaign. He has already plucked Piyush Chawla, the India legspinner, from Sussex's grasp to be their overseas player and Adams is clearly hoping Hamilton-Brown will want to rejoin him at Surrey.

Adams has already been busy recruiting big names to The Oval as part of his long-term rebuilding plan for the team with Steven Davies and Gareth Batty both joining from Worcestershire.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo