New Zealand domestic season 2008-09 October 2, 2008

Big-hitting Napier returns to Wellington

Cricinfo staff

Graham Napier's inclusion could boost Wellington's chances of winning trophies in the upcoming summer © Getty Images

Graham Napier, who hit a record 16 sixes during his unbeaten 152 in a Twenty20 game for Essex, will be part of the Wellington line-up for the 2008-09 season. Napier returns to Wellington - he was drafted in mid-way last season as a replacement for fellow Englishman Charlie Shreck - after leading the run-scoring charts for Essex's Twenty20 games in 2008.

"We are thrilled to have secured the services of a player of Graham's ability who has established himself as a major talent." Cricket Wellington cheif executive Gavin Larsen said. Napier will arrive in Wellington in early November and is contracted through to the end of the domestic Twenty20 championship, now extended to eight rounds for the season, on March 1. Napier, who played seven games for Wellington last summer, will also play club cricket in Wellington for Hutt Districts.

"It's fantastic news, obviously he did well for us last summer. He's a proven match-winner. He's a dynamic player with bat and ball," Wellington coach Anthony Stuart told the Dominion Post. Stuart said Napier would play limited-overs games for the team, and would be considered for the four-day format as well.

Napier's performances for Essex saw him being voted by the Professional Cricketers' Association as the Twenty20 MVP for 2008. He joins a Wellington Twenty20 team that will be led by Stephen Fleming, the former New Zealand captain, and includes current international Jesse Ryder. The winners could possibly win a place in 2009 Champions League, which will feature 12 teams, and Stuart said that would push the players. "There's certainly a big carrot dangling there if we want it."