White delight at double boost

Neil McKenzie has signed on for another year at the Rose Bowl
Neil McKenzie has signed on for another year at the Rose Bowl
Kyle Abbott celebrates a wicket today against champions Essex. Picture: Neil Marshall

Abbott puts champions to the sword

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Hampshire’s 2011 team is starting to take shape after Neil McKenzie’s return to the Rose Bowl was confirmed.

The South African has been playing in his homeland for the Highveld Lions over the winter but will be back for the Royals for a second campaign this summer after penning a new one-year deal.

The 35-year-old, who has struck five Test centuries, has not played international cricket since 2009 and signed with Hampshire as a Kolpak player for the 2010 season.

Hampshire manager Giles White is delighted to add the gritty right-hander to the ranks once again.

White said: ‘Neil brings so much to the team both on the pitch and in the dressing room so we are very pleased that he will be joining us once again next year.’

McKenzie’s return comes in tandem with the news that Zimbabwean all-rounder Sean Ervine has penned a contract extension, committing him to the Rose Bowl until 2013 after he so nearly quit Hampshire this winter to return to international cricket.

‘Both Neil and Sean were outstanding players for the club last season, putting in countless match-winning performances,’ said White.

‘Sean is a wonderful professional, who all the young guys in the squad look up to, so it will be a huge bonus to have him with us for two more seasons.’

Ervine said: ‘It’s going to be a landmark year for the Royals and the Rose Bowl as we attempt to defend our t20 crown. Test match cricket also comes to the venue for the first time ever so I’m excited to be a part of that.

‘I’m now just looking forward to the first home game of the season against Durham on April 8.’

New batsman Johann Myburgh has already shown his potential with some fine displays in the Caribbean, while Simon Jones looks to have regained the fitness that once made him a vital part of the England side.

Wicketkeeper Nic Pothas is on the road to recovery from a knee problem, although Dimi Mascarenhas (Achilles) and Kabir Ali (knee) are still battling the injuries they suffered last term.

The Royals have already confirmed that spinner Imran Tahir will be their overseas player for the 2011 campaign, but have yet to announce their second t20 overseas recruit.

After last summer’s attempts to land Ajantha Mendis, Shahid Afridi and Brett Lee all ended in failure, White is keeping his cards close to his chest

White said: ‘There is a little bit of uncertainty over availability next year and that’s what we’re trying to counter at the moment.

‘We’re speaking to one other player but nothing has been confirmed yet.’