County news December 6, 2009

Middlesex snap up Iain O'Brien

Cricinfo staff

Middlesex have signed Iain O'Brien, the 33-year-old New Zealand paceman, as their overseas player for 2010, replacing Murali Kartik, the Indian left-arm spinner, who has been at Lord's for the past three years.

O'Brien is currently playing in New Zealand's home series against Pakistan but announced he will retire at the end the final Test to move to England and spend more time with his wife.

He played county cricket last season with Leicestershire, collecting 21 wickets at 26.04 from his seven matches in Division Two of the Championship.

Middlesex struggled in 2009, finishing second from bottom in Division Two and Angus Fraser, the Middlesex director of cricket, feels that O'Brien can offer strong support to the pace attack.

"It became clear in 2009 that Middlesex needed to find fast bowling support for Tim Murtagh and Steven Finn, who manfully carried the team's attack last summer.

"Selecting a fast bowler as an overseas player was the obvious way of filling one of these positions, and it is why Murali Kartik was not offered a new contract."

Fraser felt that O'Brien's availability for the whole season made him a good option for the county as they look to rebuild. "Finding an overseas fast bowler who is available for most, if not all of a season is a huge thing for me," he said.

"Most international fast bowlers tend only to be available for short periods of time, and on occasions their workload is closely monitored by their home board."

"Ideally, I want an overseas player to become an integral part of the club structure, to join in with everything and feel part of the club as it moves forward. I was not keen on someone who briefly flits in and then disappears elsewhere. Iain has the potential to fulfil this requirement."

O'Brien has enjoyed a good series so far against Pakistan, taking nine wickets in the two matches but first impressed Fraser during England's tour of New Zealand in 2007-08.

"I watched Iain on a number of occasions [on that tour], and chatted to him on a couple of occasions. During our chats he informed me that he was an into the wind bowler in Wellington, a city I spent two winters playing club cricket in when I was young.

"The admission impressed me because, knowing Wellington and its wind as I do, I immediately knew Iain was a determined, wholehearted cricketer. So strong is the wind in Wellington, that if you don't show those qualities you will not reach the wickets".

Though the deal is initially for only one year, both Middlesex and O'Brien aim to extend the contract to a three-year deal, with O'Brien hoping to register as a domestic cricketer.

Speaking when he announced his retirement earlier on Sunday O'Brien said: "I am 33 years old and my main focus now is becoming a 'proper' husband, starting a family, settling down and securing my future in England. Cricket has been my number one priority and I've placed it in front of everything else. It's now time to put Rosie first and start a family."