Essex close to Harbhajan deal

Harbhajan Singh appeals unsuccessfully AFP

Harbhajan Singh is close to agreeing a deal with Essex to play the latter part of the English county season, ESPNcricinfo understands. The move will not include the Friends Life t20 due to contractual issues with the BCCI but he is set to be available once the County Championship resumes.

If the deal is completed Essex will be Harbhajan's second county after previous spells with Surrey where he collected 57 first-class wickets at 21.10 across two separate stints in 2005 and 2007. Harbhajan has been out of favour with the India selectors since being injured on last year's tour to England and has been replaced in the spin department by R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.

Essex have had a difficult time trying to retain overseas signings and recently lost the services of Shakib Al Hasan, the former Bangladesh captain, who had been due to be available for all formats including the FLt20 before the Bangladesh Cricket Board declined to give him a No Objection Certificate. Peter Siddle, the Australia fast bowler, had also been due to play for them but that fell through after he returned home from the West Indies injured.

Essex are currently seventh in Division Two of the County Championship and Harbhajan would bolster a spin attack that is currently in the hands of Tim Phillips, a left-armer, 22-year-old legspinner Tom Craddock and offspin from Greg Smith.