Essex have signed Australia Test quick Peter Siddle for the first five games of their Championship title defence.
As in 2017, when Essex supplemented a largely homegrown pace attack with an overseas pro, Siddle will bring an experienced edge during the opening weeks of the season. Essex's unexpected Championship success was spearheaded by Jamie Porter and former South Africa spinner Simon Harmer, who took 147 wickets between them, but they benefited from significant contributions by Neil Wagner and Mohammad Amir.
Siddle, who previously signed to play T20 for Essex in 2012 before being ruled out with injury, will be expected to fulfill a similar role alongside England Lions bowler Porter and a crop of young seamers including Sam Cook, Aaron Beard and Paul Walter.
"I am delighted to sign for Essex," Siddle said. "I have heard very good things about the club and the quality of the playing squad and look forward to contributing strongly towards the title defence during the first few weeks of the season. I've enjoyed my previous experiences of county cricket and can't wait to get underway at Chelmsford."
Siddle, 33, has taken 211 Test wickets and his style of bustling, skillful seam-bowling is well suited to English conditions; on Australia's 2015 Ashes tour, he claimed match figures of 6 for 67 to help set up victory at The Oval. His last Test appearance was more than a year ago, however, and he has been troubled by persistent back injuries.
He has previously enjoyed successful Championship spells with Nottinghamshire and Lancashire. A recent Big Bash League winner with Adelaide Strikers, he is currently only expected to play four-day cricket at Chelmsford.
Anthony McGrath, who was recently appointed as Essex's head coach after Chris Silverwood left to take up a role with England, said that he had spoken to his former Yorkshire team-mate Darren Lehmann, now in charge of Australia, about signing Siddle.
"Peter is someone with proven quality at the highest level," McGrath said. "He is vastly experienced and is a player who won't just deliver on the pitch but will help our younger bowlers as well.
"He recently played in one of the best International teams around, and we are looking forward to picking his brains and seeing what else we can produce as a bowling unit with his help. Darren Lehmann spoke glowingly about him as a person and a bowler when I spoke to him recently, so we are looking forward to him joining us and making a real impact in the opening weeks of the season."