HAMPSHIRE new boy Kyle Abbott will give the county a new dimension as a death bowler, according to director of cricket Giles White.
The 26 year-old has been in excellent form in helping take the Dolphins to the brink of qualifying for the latter stages of South Africa’s domestic T20 competition.
Only two bowlers have taken more wickets than Abbott’s 11 at 19 apiece in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge.
As well as being a strike bowler, White reckons the overseas signing will be especially useful at the death for Hampshire in the T20 Blast.
It was a weakness last season, with Sohail Tanvir failing to replicate what Dominic Cork did so well.
But Abbott has the required skill-set.
“Kyle’s very good at bowling at the death in T20, which is an area that we can improve,” said White.
Abbott’s burgeoning T20 reputation meant next month’s Indian Premier League auction was also an option for him.
“Kyle was looking at the IPL but fortunately for us he decided he wanted to play county cricket so has decided not to put his name in the hat for that,” continued White.
“He’s also a strike bowler with a very good first-class record so is full of quality.
“He swings it and bowls a fuller length, I’m told, so hopefully he can bolster our attack and lead from the front.”
Abbott has been on Hampshire’s radar since taking 7-29 on his Test debut against Pakistan last February.
“Last year we looked at him, he’s very close to the South Africa side but is on the fringes of a particularly good Test attack,” continued White.
“Morkel, Steyn and Philander are exceptional but he was drafted in when Morkel had an ankle injury recently.”
South Africa have a tour of Zimbabwe in July/August, but White is hopeful Abbott will be available all season.
Somewhat surprisingly, he has been left out of South Africa’s squad, along with former Hampshire leg-spinner Imran Tahir, for the forthcoming Test series against Australia.
All-rounders Wayne Parnell and Ryan McLaren have been drafted in instead, following Jacques Kallis’s recent retirement.
“The fact South Africa don’t have an awful lot of cricket on means he’s a player we can potentially have for the whole season, so we jumped at the chance,” said White, who was initially looking at signing another Australian. You can only sign quality and, after looking around at the best fast bowlers, there aren’t too many who are available and whose boards allow them to play a full season.
“Kyle ticks the boxes for us and I’m sure he’ll perform.
“We’ve spoken to Dale Benkenstein, who coaches at the Dolphins, and Neil McKenzie, who knows him well.
“They say he bowls that English length where he attacks the stumps so hopefully he’ll put that into practice with us.
“There’s no reason why he won’t be successful in English conditions.”
Abbott may well arrive at The Ageas Bowl as a T20 champion.
In the last week alone he has been excellent, taking 3-21 before producing the most economical performance of his T20 career (4-1-16-1) on Wednesday.
The Dolphins have probably already done enough to finish in the top three of the RAM Slam Challenge. But they will mathematically ensure their place in the semi-final if they win their penultimate league game, against the Knights in Durban this evening.
They could yet finish top, which would ensure automatic qualification for next week’s final.