Yorkshire have announced the signing of Lockie Ferguson, the New Zealand fast bowler, as an overseas player for the T20 Blast.
Ferguson's stock has risen in T20 cricket over the last six months, after he briefly starred for Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2020 IPL, taking 3 for 15 and closing out a Super-Over win in his first appearance of the season against Sunrisers Hyderabad. He also impressed in New Zealand's home series against West Indies, taking combined figures of 7 for 56 across nine overs, before an injury ruled him out of the ongoing series against Australia.
There is an element of uncertainty involved in his availability, given New Zealand will be playing Test cricket in the UK - against England and in the World Test Championship final - during the group stages of the T20 Blast. But Ferguson has not featured in the format since his debut against Australia in December 2019, and a Yorkshire press release said he was "expected to be available to play in all of the Vikings' North Group matches" despite his involvement in the IPL.
Yorkshire will be Ferguson's second county, after he played 13 T20s and five County Championship games for Derbyshire in 2018. He was particularly impressive in the Blast, taking 16 wickets and conceding just 6.64 runs per over.
"When Yorkshire comes knocking it's obviously pretty exciting times as a cricket lover - it's such a big county," Ferguson said on Thursday. "[I'm] pumped to go back to the Blast. I have very fond memories and in many ways it kick-started my career a little bit, playing for Derby. I actually probably had one of my better games against Yorkshire so would be nice to play a home game - it was a pretty spicy wicket.
"I enjoy playing in the UK. The wickets have been very kind to me. To go and play a T20 comp off the back of the IPL will be great [as will] getting constant cricket in. The experience you get is second to none. Leading into a World Cup year, that seems like so far away but that's in the back of my mind and I want to make sure I'm firing for that World Cup."
Andrew Gale, Yorkshire's head coach said: "Lockie has got X-factor pace. Pace in T20 cricket is always a good thing, but also his death bowling in particular will be hugely beneficial.
"We haven't had somebody who is reliable and consistent at the death for a number of years. This is something that we have been working on with the lads in-house, but having someone who you can rely on at the death is a big plus.
"We wanted a bowler with some experience because we felt with our young seamers, we want to keep them fit and protect them throughout the season. We had a number of injuries last year to our young seamers, so we want to look after them.
"By bringing Lockie in, it means that the burden of workload for them should be a little bit smaller. It fits the bill and we are glad to get him on board. Having somebody available for the whole competition is also a big thing."
Ferguson is the club second confirmed overseas signing for 2021 after Duanne Olivier, the South African fast bowler. Olivier has moved to overseas status for the third year of the contract he signed in 2019, following two years as a Kolpak registration.
Ferguson could be one of several New Zealand white-ball internationals to feature in the Blast this season, with Essex understood to be in talks with James Neesham despite the possibility of a slight overlap between the start of the Blast and the end of the IPL, where he is under contract with Mumbai Indians.
The Blast is scheduled for a slightly earlier window in the summer to accommodate the inaugural season of the Hundred, and is due to clash with several international series. With the pandemic leading to complications and uncertainty regarding international travel, counties have found it tricky to find overseas players available throughout the competition, but a number of signings are still expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98