Grant Flower has agreed to join Essex from next season. Flower, 33, has agreed a two-year deal, and will play as a non-overseas player under the "Kolpak" ruling.
Flower played 67 Tests and 219 one-dayers for Zimbabwe, and fared better in the one-day format, averaging a little over 33 with the bat, and taking 104 wickets with his flattish left-arm spin. He announced his retirement from international cricket last week after playing a leading role in the recent disputes between the so-called rebel players and the Zimbabwean board.
He will join his elder brother Andy, who retired from the international game after the 2003 World Cup, and who has been with Essex for three years. It will be Grant's second spell in county cricket, after a brief flirtation with Leicestershire in 2002.
Flower's arrival at Essex will mean that they will have three Zimbabwean-born players in the squad, providing Scott Brant, their overseas fast bowler, returns next season. Flower, like his brother, will qualify as a local player because Zimbabwe has a trade agreement with the European Union. The loophole arose when Maros Kolpak, a Slovakian handball player, went to the European Court in a bid to play in Germany without being classed as a foreigner because he came from a non-European Union country. His victory meant that workers from around 100 countries who have trade agreements with the EU are now protected by European employment laws.
"Grant is a very talented cricketer who will bring an added dimension to our upper order," said David East, Essex's chief executive. "He is a brilliant fielder and provides us with another spin-bowling option in all forms of cricket. We very much look forward to him joining us in 2005."