The future of Sajid Mahmood, the former England fast bowler, has been resolved with Essex signing him on a two-year deal.

Mahmood was released by Lancashire, for whom he took 260 first-class wickets, at the end of the 2012 season after sending him out on loan to Somerset at the end of the year where he made three appearances.

It is perhaps indicative of Mahmood's fall from grace that he has extended his career by signing for a team that finished fifth in Division Two of the County Championship last season. In 2011, he was part of the Lancashire side that won the title, taking 35 wickets in the campaign, but missed the end of the season and made just three appearances at the start of 2012.

Mahmood's drift into the cricketing wilderness was quite a contrast from the fearsome fast bowler who was signed from the Bolton league in 2002. A year later he was on an England A tour and demonstrating his pace by breaking Alex Gidman's hand and injuring Andrew Flintoff with a beamer.

An ODI debut quickly followed in 2004 and two years later he played the first of his eight Tests against Sri Lanka at Lord's, Mahmood a beneficiary of Duncan Fletcher's policy of finding raw pace. But the concluding act of England's 5-0 whitewash in Sydney was the final Test he played and, after the World Cup that followed in the West Indies, his ODI career was almost over too.

Mahmood's domestic returns remained modest, averaging just over 30 in first-class cricket from 2007 to 2010 and his economy rate in one-day cricket rose - last season he went at over eight-an-over. And it was a high economy rate that ended his Lancashire career - his last appearance saw him concede 42 from 2.3 overs, including 17 off his last three legitimate deliveries, in Lancashire's opening Friends Life t20 defeat to Derbyshire.

While other promising fast bowlers have moved to Division One counties - Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks both moved to Yorkshire, Ajmal Shahzad signed for Nottinghamshire - Mahmood has been forced to find a less fashionable county to continue his career, where he will look to prove the credentials that earned him an international career.

Proving a point is a factor that attracted Mahmood to Essex head coach Paul Grayson. "I'm really pleased Saj has joined the club," Grayson said. "I like cricketers who feel that they have something to prove to people and he has lots of ability, he's experienced and he's a fit guy who can bowl with good pace as well so we feel Saj will be a real addition to the squad."

Mahmood added: "I am delighted to be joining Essex. Playing at Lancashire was a great experience for me and I thank them for all they did for my cricket. I see this move as a new beginning and can't wait to get started. Paul Grayson has been brilliant throughout the recruitment process and I appreciate the faith he's shown in me."