The Sydney Thunder have secured two of the biggest names in Twenty20 cricket, with Chris Gayle set to return for the side this year, alongside the Pakistan allrounder Shahid Afridi. Gayle was the major drawcard for the Thunder last summer, when he topped their run tally with 252 at an average of 42, and the presence of Afridi alongside him will be cause for concern among opposition attacks.

Last season, the Thunder chose Fidel Edwards as their second overseas player but they have opted to go with two powerful batsmen this season. Afridi turned out for the Melbourne Renegades last season and his results with the bat were disappointing, but his ten wickets made him the team's leading wicket taker.

The Thunder were the only side not to name 14 squad members by last Friday, having been granted an extension by Cricket Australia, and they believe the delay was worth the wait. Having finished on the bottom of the table last summer, there is plenty of work ahead of the Thunder this year but Gayle is pleased to be back despite the side's results last year.

"I am really happy to have re-signed with the Thunder," Gayle said. "After my experience last year, I always wanted to return. I love Sydney, so I cannot wait to get amongst the guys again. The Thunder squad is looking good with a solid mix of youth and experience."

Afridi said he was looking forward to joining the Thunder, his third Australian domestic T20 side after South Australia and the Renegades. "I am looking forward to playing in Sydney for the Thunder and helping them earn the bragging rights in the city over the Sixers," Afridi said.