Jackson Bird, Matt Kelly sign early-season County Championship deals

Australians will play for Kent and Northants respectively in April and May

Jackson Bird ran through New South Wales with 7 for 18, Tasmania vs New South Wales, Sheffield Shield, Hobart, March 21, 2021

Jackson Bird is returning to county cricket  •  Getty Images

Jackson Bird and Matt Kelly will both play in the early rounds of the County Championship in 2022 after signing deals with Kent and Northamptonshire respectively.
Bird, 35, has previously featured for Hampshire and Nottinghamshire and was ruled out of a planned stint at Lancashire last season through injury. He was the second-highest wicket-taker in the Sheffield Shield in 2020-21 and will join up with Kent for up to six Championship games following the conclusion of the Australian domestic season.
Kent have already signed George Linde, the South African allrounder, on an overseas deal for the full 2022 season and Bird will fill in for Matt Henry, the New Zealand seamer, before he arrives in mid-July. Qais Ahmad, the Afghan legspinner, will fill their second overseas spot for the T20 Blast.
Paul Downton, Kent's director of cricket, said: "[Bird] is an experienced bowler who will strengthen our squad as we begin our Championship campaign. He is a proven wicket-taker who will also be a great mentor for our young seamers, and we look forward to welcoming him to Canterbury."
Kelly, the Western Australian seamer, is due to be available for Northants' first six Championship games, starting against Gloucestershire on April 7 in their first Division One fixture since 2014.
He is their second overseas signing for the Championship along with New Zealand's Will Young - who will also play in the Royal London Cup - while James Neesham has signed for the Blast.
"Matt possesses a fantastic skillset that we feel is well suited to English conditions and will complement our bowling attack nicely," Chris Liddle, Northants' bowling coach, said. "He's got a great record in red-ball cricket and we think he's a perfect fit for what we need, I can't wait to get him over here and see what he can bring to the group."
Elsewhere, Matt Mason has been appointed bowling coach at Warwickshire after three seasons with Western Australia and Perth Scorchers. He replaces Graeme Welch, who moved to Hampshire at the end of last season.