Warwickshire sign Olly Stone, aiming for Keaton Jennings
Warwickshire have won the race to sign highly-rated Northamptonshire seamer Olly Stone
Warwickshire have won the race to sign highly-rated Northamptonshire seamer Olly Stone.
Stone, a former England U-19 captain, is currently sidelined by injury but is regarded as one of the most exciting fast bowling prospects in the county game and was known to be of interest to at least eight counties.
In the end, the prospect of Division One cricket and assurances that he would not be over-bowled sealed the deal for Warwickshire.
Stone will not bowl again this season having suffered a freak injury to his anterior cruciate ligament while celebrating a wicket but, aged 22, has gained attention with his pace and control. Warwickshire see his signing as a major coup and regard him as the outstanding fast bowling prospect in the English game.
The club also hope to sign a top-order batsman with Keaton Jennings, from Durham, understood to be their No. 1 target. Jennings, the leading run-scorer in the top division of the County Championship this season with five centuries, is aged 24, and seen by Warwickshire as a player with leadership potential.
The addition of Stone and Jennings would go some way to re-balance what has become a Warwickshire side top-heavy with players in their mid-30s. It would be interpreted at Edgbaston as quite a coup for a club that has, over recent years, struggled to attract players to Birmingham. In recent times they have missed out on the likes of James Taylor, David Willey, David Sales, Steve Kirby, Alex Gidman and many more.
Durham, whose financial issues compromise their ability to offer competitive salaries, have already lost Mark Stoneman to Surrey while several clubs have made approaches to sign Scott Borthwick. It is understood he has held talks with Surrey in the last few days. Warwickshire are set to lose a couple of players, too. Richard Jones has departed for Leicestershire on a two-year deal, while Varun Chopra is talking to several clubs about his options for next year. The club have confirmed that Chopra will not be offered a new contract at the end of this year. A return to Essex appears the most likely option.
And while Ian Bell may well return to the club's wage bill after many years of being covered by a central contract, it seems those costs could be off-set by Chris Woakes going the other way.
There is also some uncertainty around the future of Laurie Evans. ESPNcricinfo understands that Evans has asked to be released from his Warwickshire contract due to his frustration at a lack of first team appearances in the County Championship.
The 28-year-old is highly rated but, with a middle-order spot at the club blocked by the emergence of Sam Hain and the return of Bell and Jonathan Trott, his opportunities have been limited to a single Championship appearance this season. The club insist they want Evans, who remains an important part of their white ball side, to stay.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo