Foster, Croft sign for Knights
James Foster, Essex's wicketkeeper and captain, and Steven Croft, the Lancashire allrounder, have agreed to play in New Zealand's Twenty20 competition with the Northern Knights. Foster will replace Peter McGlashan, who announced his retirement in July, behind the stumps for the Knights' 2012-13 HRV Cup campaign.
Both Foster, who played for England during the 2009 World Twenty20, and Croft, named in England's provisional 30-man squad for the ongoing tournament in Sri Lanka, are experienced T20 performers. Scott Styris, the Knights captain, played alongside Foster at Essex between 2010 and 2011 and welcomed his arrival.
"He's a tremendous signing for us," Styris said. "He topped the MVP table after the group stages of the UK T20 competition and was called the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world by Essex coach, Paul Grayson, such is the high regard in which he is held in the United Kingdom. He's also a like-for-like replacement for Peter McGlashan, which is ideal from our perspective."
Styris has also been a team-mate of Croft's, during the Lancashire man's spell at Auckland Aces in 2008-09. Croft said: "I loved playing in New Zealand the last time I was there so I'm really looking forward to coming to Northern Districts and playing some T20 cricket. I want to continue developing my game and hopefully push my way into the England T20 side."
Foster was Essex's leading T20 run-scorer on their way to a quarter-final defeat last season, scoring 270 runs at a strike-rate of 165.64. His record of 15 sixes in the competition was only bettered by Yorkshire's David Miller, who hit 21. Croft hit 313 runs at a strike-rate of 129.33 and an average of 62.60, putting him fourth on the Friends Life t20 runs list despite Lancashire not making it to the knockout stages.
Grant Bradburn hoped the additions would boost his side's HRV Cup chances. "We're the Plunket Shield champions, we've won the one-day title in recent years and even won the Cricket Max trophy when it was played," Northern Districts' head coach said. "But Twenty20 honours have steadfastly eluded us and we're very determined to set that right."
Northern Districts CEO, David Cooper, said: "Filling the sudden void left by Peter McGlashan's pre-season retirement was obviously of some urgency for us and we are very pleased to have been able to attract such a highly experienced, competitive player as James Foster so quickly. Steven Croft's Twenty20 nous and experience was likewise very attractive as we look to succeed in the only format in which silverware has eluded us."
While Foster and Croft will join the Knights towards the end of October, ahead of their HRV Cup opener against Otago Volts on November 2, Northern Districts will be without the services of Hamish Marshall this season. Marshall, 33, who is based in the UK where he plays for Gloucestershire, will remain at home to be with his wife for the birth of their second child, due in January.
"I'm spending the winter here training with the Gloucester squad and doing my level 3 coaching certificate," Marshall said. "Surviving the English winter will be a challenge and I wish the lads all the best over the season."