Kyle Abbott is enjoying a good run in Test cricket but may not play much more © AFP
Hampshire believe they are on the verge of securing the services of Kyle Abbott on a long-term deal as a Kolpak registration, despite his recent success at international level with South Africa.
Abbott, a member of South Africa’s Test team currently playing Sri Lanka in Cape Town and a key performer in the series victory over Australia, is understood by ESPNcricinfo to have agreed a three or four-year deal with Hampshire that will realistically end his international career.
While Abbott is believed to have agonised over the move for some time – Hampshire remain fearful he could change his mind over a deal agreed some weeks ago having belatedly enjoyed a run in the Test team – he is expected to announce his international retirement later this month. Cricket South Africa are not understood to be aware of the deal.
With Simon Harmer and Hardus Viljoen also having agreed similar deals with Essex and Derbyshire respectively, Abbott’s decision might be interpreted as part of a new wave of Kolpak registrations. The UK’s decision to vote for Brexit threatens to close the loophole that permits such signings in the coming months though it is anticipated that all deals made ahead of that time will be honoured. Hampshire are also understood to be in talks with Rilee Rossouw.
As recently as last week, during the first Test against Sri Lanka, Abbott spoke about finally earning a run in the South Africa Test team.
“Being out of the side and sitting on the sidelines for so long and now getting the opportunity and doing well, is a great feeling. It’s a long period of hard work that is starting to pay off and now I am getting opportunity at this level to showcase my skills,” he said. “The team is in a great space and so am I, and it’s exciting to see what’s going to come. There’s only around 90 of us or so that have played so I count myself incredibly lucky.”
The temptation for a player like Abbott is not hard to understand. Aged 29 and only recently established in the South Africa side – he is currently playing his 11th Test – his decision to embrace a long-term county deal offers something approaching financial security. He can expect to earn more than £100,000 a year from the deal, with insurance cover built into the deal, and should still be free to play in some of the T20 leagues around the world.
It may be relevant, too, that Abbott was the man to make way for Vernon Philander in the World Cup semi-final a year ago. Whatever the merits and reasons for that decision, it has left some South African cricketers uncertain of their futures.
The news will not be entirely welcome in England, either. The ECB has been trying to crack down on Kolpak loopholes for several years in an attempt to provide more opportunities for home-grown players and is understood to have prevented at least one such signing in recent months. The player involved agreed a deal as an overseas registration instead.
But the attraction for Hampshire is obvious. They avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth last season (having finished in the bottom two of Division One, they won a reprieve when Durham were punished for their financial problems by relegation) with a key problem their lack of potency with the ball.
Ryan McLaren, who has subsequently left for Lancashire, was their top wicket-taker in the Championship with 32 at a cost of 38.81. The addition of Abbott, a bowler of pace, skill and persistence, with recent international experience in all three formats of the game, should be quite an asset. He first played for the county in 2014, helping them win promotion by claiming 36 Championship wickets at a cost of 20.33.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo