Wagner returns for Essex in 2018

Neil Wagner celebrates a Yorkshire wicket Getty Images

Essex have secured a return for Neil Wagner, the New Zealand left-armer who played a key role in their 2017 Championship title. Wagner has signed for an initial spell from May until July, with the possibility of it being extended depending on his international commitments.

Although Wagner's 31 wickets came at 35.32 last season, he sent down more than 300 overs - behind only Simon Harmer and Jamie Porter - and added experience to a youthful seam attack. His aggressive style complimented the nagging lines provided by Porter, and his best figures of 6 for 48, at Taunton in April, helped set up Essex's first win in what was to become a memorable season.

Currently ranked the No. 7 Test bowler in the world, Wagner will take over from Peter Siddle as Essex's overseas player in May, after a five-match Championship stint for the Australian. Wagner is set to play in all formats until the end of July.

"Once I knew there was an opportunity to come back to Essex, I was very keen to get back to Chelmsford and build on the hard work and success of last season," Wagner said.

"Everyone at the club made me feel welcome last year, from the members to the commercial team, and I absolutely loved my time there. The squad and coaching staff were brilliant with me and I am looking forward to catching up with the friends I made and bringing more success to such a special club."

Wagner was Essex's main overseas signing in 2017, joining for a second stint later in the season after Mohammad Amir returned to Pakistan. As well as helping Essex to their first Championship in 25 years, he claimed 14 wickets in the Royal London Cup before their semi-final exit. The 31-year-old has also played county cricket previously for Lancashire and Northamptonshire.

He claimed his best Test figures of 7 for 39 against West Indies in December and should play a key role in New Zealand's two-Test series against England starting next month. New Zealand are then due to have a six-month gap before touring the UAE to play Pakistan in October.

Anthony McGrath, Essex's head coach, said: "We have been working hard on bringing Neil back for a while. His performances were excellent last season and he offers something to the squad with both bat and ball.

"Off the field he was very much a popular member of the squad and he brings international experience to our exciting group of young bowlers. He showed great commitment to the club last year and was integral to what we achieved. From the minute he joined he understood exactly what Essex is all about, and we are looking forward to welcoming him back this year."