Peter Moores has hailed the recent overseas signing of South African batsman Ashwell Prince for the 2012 county campaign.
The experienced Test match left-hander arrives at Old Trafford next month for his third spell in a Lancashire shirt, playing his cricket in the LV= County Championship and Clydesdale Bank 40 competitions.
After short spells in 2009 and 2010, the Warriors man received his Red Rose cap on the back of three hundreds - two in the Championship and the other in 40-over cricket - and also his contributions within the dressing room.
Coach Moores, currently preparing his side for their forthcoming pre-season tour of the United Arab Emirates that starts on March 19, said: "We are really pleased to have signed him.
“We know him, and that is important for us because we stand a lot by our team spirit. He got on well with the lads when he was here two years ago, he was totally committed to the cause, and we know what we are going to get.
“He is a very good player who is passionate about cricket. He is determined, tough and competitive. He gave a lot to us last time. He spent time with different players talking about the game and passing on his experience to some of the batsmen. He will be a great addition for us.
“We will really miss Mark Chilton because not only was he a good player, but he was great to have around the dressing room. But we have a great replacement in Ashwell."
Prince looks likely to slot in as the only left-hander in the top five, with Paul Horton, Stephen Moore, Karl Brown and Steven Croft all right-handers.
"Ashwell being a left-hander helps in the top order," continued Moores. "He enjoys the challenge of the moving ball, which is why he plays well in England. He gets stuck in. To bat in England in the early part of the season you need to be prepared to get ugly runs."
Prince's availability for the full summer depends largely on his international commitments.
He has been left out of South Africa's Test series against New Zealand, which starts tomorrow (9.30pm UK today), but he is still centrally contracted by Cricket South Africa and playing for a recall ahead of the summer Tests in England.
And Moores admits he and the rest of the Lancashire squad are keen to see their man achieve his goal, much like Sri Lankan all-rounder Farveez Maharoof did last summer.
"Ashwell would dearly love to get stuck in with us and earn himself a place in the South Africa Test side for their series against England at the back end of the summer," said Moores. “Either way, it is a very positive signing for us.
“We will do the same as we did with Farveez last year. We told him we would work really hard with him, and he fought really well and got himself in the Sri Lanka Test team.
"When he got called up, there was a big celebration in the dressing room because we knew how much it meant to him.
“If Ashwell is on fire for nine Championship games and gets selected for South Africa because of it, he will go with our blessing. And then that would give a great opportunity for someone else who is not in our side because we have our own young batsmen who are going well."
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd