Foster key signing but Knights still need a keeper

The Northern Knights have signed former England wicketkeeper James Foster for their Twenty20 season - but the gloves are still up for grabs for first-class cricket.

Foster and fellow English county professional Steven Croft will turn out for Northern Districts during the three-month HRV Cup campaign, while Croft may also play some first-class matches for the association in the Plunket Shield.

But with Foster only playing the shortest format, the Knights will still need a new glovesman to replace the retired Peter McGlashan for their four-day and one-day matches this summer.

The Knights have current Black Caps wicketkeeper-batsman B J Watling on their books, but with international commitments looming against Sri Lanka, South Africa and England this summer, it's likely he will be unavailable for much of the domestic season.

The other options for the Knights are to use one of their younger keepers like Shane Gadsen or Owen Ivins, recruit again from overseas or within New Zealand, or convert a current first-choice batsman into a keeper as they did with Watling, who began his career as a glovesman before becoming a specialist opener.

Foster, 32, has played seven tests, 11 one-day internationals and five Twenty20 matches for England and was this week named player's player of the year, the people's choice player of the year and the members' and supporters' choice of player of the year for his Essex county side.

Croft, 27, played for the Auckland Aces in 2009 as a bowling all-rounder but has since developed chiefly into a punishing top-order bat who was named in England's preliminary squad for the 2012 Twenty20 World Championship before being omitted from the tournament team.

He was a member of the side which won the 2011 county championship and was named Lancashire's player of the year for the past season.

Knights coach Grant Bradburn said the pair were key signings as the side sought to win the HRV Cup for the first time.

"We're the Plunket Shield champions, we've won the one-day title in recent years and even won the Cricket Max trophy when it was played. But Twenty20 honours have steadfastly eluded us and we're very determined to set that right," Bradburn said.

Foster was a prolific six-hitter in the English county T20 competition last season and has been a team-mate of current Knights Scott Styris and Tim Southee at Essex.

"He's a tremendous signing for us," Styris said. "He topped the MVP table after the group stages of the UK T20 comp and was called the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world by Essex coach Paul Grayson. He's also a like-for-like replacement for Peter McGlashan, which is ideal from our perspective."

Croft scored 1492 runs across the 2012 county season and claimed career-best bowling figures of 6-41 with his right-arm off-spin.

"I loved playing in New Zealand the last time I was there so I'm really looking forward to coming to Northern Districts and playing some T20 cricket," Croft said.

"I want to continue developing my game and hopefully push my way into the England T20 side."

The Knights will start the domestic T20 season when they host the Otago Volts at Hamilton's Seddon Park, in a televised Friday match on November 2.

Waikato Times