Tom Westley, an 18-year-old batsman from Cambridge, has signed a two-year contract with Essex after impressing during a two-year stint at the county academy.

Westley made his first-team debut in June 2006 against the touring Sri Lankans, and played his first first-class match against Cambridge UCCE in May this year. He featured in four County Championship games in 2007, as well as two Pro40 games, and made a highest score of 72 against Somerset at Chelmsford in September.

"Tom is another shining example of how well our Academy system is working," Essex's chief executive, David East, told "His progress over the last couple of seasons has been excellent, and we are all very hopeful that we have another star in the making."

Westley himself was delighted at the news. "With the Academy pro contracts I've had over the last couple of years I was obviously hoping to get a full-time one so, after a pretty decent year, I'm privileged to get a two-year contract," he told the county website.

"It helped massively to go on the pre-season tour of Dubai because it was the first time I'd got to be around the players for a long time and also made me start to think that if things went well I might get to play the odd first-team game. As the season went on I finished in the first-team, which has been an honour."

Westley also featured in one Under-19 Test and five Under-19 ODIs this summer, and showed great promise with his offbreaks, taking match figures of 7 for 131 in the first Test against Pakistan at Scarborough.