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Wheater agrees permanent Essex return

Adam Wheater has been playing for Hampshire solely as a batsman Getty Images

Adam Wheater, the wicketkeeper-batsman, is to return to Essex three years after leaving for Hampshire. Wheater, who had already gone on loan to Essex after losing the gloves at Hampshire, has signed a two-year contract.

With Hampshire preferring Lewis McManus as their wicketkeeper for the second half of the season, Wheater was asked to play as a specialist batsman - something he did creditably, scoring a maiden first-class double-hundred in July after which he reiterated his desire to keep wicket.

During Wheater's previous spell at Essex, where he made his first-class debut in 2008, his path was blocked by James Foster and he eventually bought himself out of the final year of his contract to move to Hampshire ahead of the 2013 season. That caused some controversy, when Wheater was preferred to club favourite Michael Bates because of his batting.

Foster remains Essex's first-choice keeper but, at the age of 36, he has already begun to look at opportunities outside the game, taking up the post of cricket professional at Forest School last year. Wheater, who was rumoured to be a target for Essex, will now be considered next in line.

"It's great to be back at Essex, where I started my career," Wheater said. "I'd like to thank Hampshire for their understanding of moving to Essex and wish them every success in the future."

The signing will bolster Essex's squad for an expected return to Division One of the Championship. With only one team set to go up, the Division Two leaders are 20 points clear of Kent - who have only one game remaining - and need just a handful of bonus points from their last two fixtures to seal promotion.

Wheater made seven first-class hundreds in his four seasons with Hampshire, as well as two in List A cricket. In 2016 he averages 47.22, with a high score of 204 not out, but after McManus was granted an extended run behind the stumps, Wheater made it clear he would prefer to seek opportunities elsewhere rather than play as a specialist batsman, despite a year remaining on his contract.

His loan move to Essex was announced last week but it has swiftly been made permanent. He joins Varun Chopra - who will also return on loan from Warwickshire after signing a three-year deal - in making a comeback to the county.

Essex's head coach, Chris Silverwood, said: "To be able to bring Adam back to the club on a permanent basis is brilliant for us, he comes into the squad with Division One experience, which is exactly what we need should we get promoted."