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Matt Coles joins County Champions Essex

Matt Coles in action for Kent Getty Images

Matt Coles has swapped Kent for County Champions Essex on a two-year deal.

Coles, something of an unfulfilled talent, admitted he had a "heavy heart" about leaving Kent but felt the opportunity to play Division One cricket and "push myself to be as good as I can be" made this too good an opportunity to miss.

For Essex, his addition adds competition for places and depth in all formats.

A former Lions allrounder, Coles emerged through the Kent youth system and academy. He made his first-team debut in 2009 and has represented the club more than 200 times across formats. He had a year remaining on his Kent contract.

He did briefly leave Kent once before. At the end of 2013 he joined Hampshire on loan and subsequently signed with them. But despite a decent 2014 season, he struggled to settle away from home and returned to Kent.

"It is with a heavy heart that I leave Kent," Coles said. "It's been my home and family for most of my life and career.

"But I have a great opportunity to move and play Division One cricket with the County Champions. It feels right, and I want to push myself to be as good as I can be. Essex's vision for the future is really exciting and I'm looking forward to playing a significant part."

Coles has flirted with notoriety for much of his career - he and Ben Stokes were sent home from a Lions tour in early 2013 after one too many nights out, while he was left out of Kent's Championship fixture against Derbyshire in June 2016 following a drink-related incident and was suspended by the ECB for two further Championship matches after being found guilty of throwing the ball in a dangerous manner during their victory against Glamorgan in May. However, he is a well-respected player who performed well enough to earn selection for the first series of North-South matches at the start of the year.

Aged 27 and with his chances of England recognition having receded sharply over recent years, the move might be considered a defining moment in his career.

"It is important that we continue to improve the squad and not rest on our laurels," Essex Head Coach Chris Silverwood said. "We feel Matt offers excellent attributes with both his batting and bowling across all formats. He will strengthen competition in red-ball cricket but also offer destructive batting and bowling in white-ball cricket so it is an excellent signing for the club."

The news leaves Kent's seam-bowling resources looking a little thin ahead of the 2018 season. It is understood the club are among several keen to tempt Morne Morkel into a Kolpak deal and are also making enquiries about several other county seamers who either out of contract or out of favour at their current counties.