Michael Yardy and Ian Blackwell have become the latest international imports for New Zealand's domestic Twenty20 competition after signing up with Central Districts. The Stags are the reigning champions in the HRV Cup and they hope the pair can help them again qualify for the Champions League Twenty20.
Central Districts have in the past used the English allrounder Graham Napier, but he was unavailable this season due to a back injury. They are also expecting to be without Jacob Oram for the early part of the tournament, which meant securing a pair of allrounders was high on the agenda before the competition starts on December 2.
"We saw first-hand at the Champions League the value of two spinners working in tandem through the middle of an innings," the coach Alan Hunt said. "In securing two players that can fulfil that role, as well as being powerful top order batsman, I think that we have an ideal balance to our side.
"Our young pace bowlers showed considerable promise in South Africa and when we add Mike and Ian to an experienced batting line that includes the likes of Jamie How, Peter Ingram and Mathew Sinclair, we have some very exciting talent."
Yardy, 29, has re-established himself in the shorter formats for England this year but will be available for the whole tournament, as he does not figure in the Ashes campaign. Blackwell, 32, has not played for England since 2006 and he is keen to grab the opportunity for more action outside his home country.
"It's a great opportunity for me to show what I'm capable of outside of England, and I hope we build on last year and qualify for the Champions League again," Blackwell said. "I'm sure it will be a real test, but it's one I'm relishing."
Northern Districts scored a coup earlier this month by signing up Herschelle Gibbs, Brad Hodge and David Warner, who will be rotated throughout the event. Wellington have also secured a handy international pair, Brett Lee and Luke Wright, while Ryan ten Doeschate will play for Canterbury.