Muralitharan back at Gloucestershire for T20s
Muttiah Muralitharan, the leading wicket-taker in Test and ODI cricket, will be back at Gloucestershire this year to play a part in the county's Friends Life t20 campaign. The Sri Lanka offspinner, who retired from international cricket after the 2011 World Cup final, has most recently turned out for Wellington in New Zealand's domestic Twenty20 competition, the HRV Cup.
Muralitharan was Gloucestershire's joint most-successful bowler in the Friends Provident t20 last season, with 12 wickets - though his presence was not enough to prevent the Gladiators finishing second-bottom in the South Group with four wins from 16. "I thoroughly enjoyed my first FLt20 season with Gloucestershire and I am looking forward to returning to the club," he said.
The 39-year-old took his 800th wicket with his final ball in Test cricket, in 2010. He has also taken a record 534 ODI wickets and was a part of Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup-winning team. In Twenty20 cricket, he has claimed 122 victims at an average of 20.18 and with an economy rate of 6.37. He was part of Chennai Super Kings' successful run to the biggest prize in domestic Twenty20, the Champions League, in 2010.
"As a side we are delighted that Murali is returning," Gloucestershire's director of cricket, John Bracewell, said. "His experience was invaluable last year, given the shortness of the T20 game and the amount of rain-affected matches we had. We did not see the best of what he can offer. I know our players gained a great deal from having Murali in and around our dressing room. His enthusiasm and love for the game, combined with his exceptional skills, are something that will draw any crowd."
Muralitharan could be Gloucestershire's only overseas player in 2012. Finances are tight in Bristol after planning permission to develop Nevil Road was turned down, but the club have signed Dan Housego from Middlesex to fill the number three slot in the County Championship. Kane Williamson, the New Zealand batsman, batted at No. 3 last season, but his potential international assignments in West Indies in June-July, and Gloucestershire's tight budget, make his return to the county unlikely.