Sri Lankan Dimuth Karunaratne’s overseas replacement set to be in place for Hampshire season opener

Hampshire will have an overseas signing in place before the season opener against Essex.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 11:01 am
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 11:06 am
Sri Lankan Dimuth Karunaratne. Picture by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

That’s the vow of new first-team manager Adrian Birrell, who has confirmed Dimuth Karunaratne will not be taking up his spot at the Ageas Bowl.

The opening batsman led Sri Lanka’s Test team to an historic series victory in South Africa last month.

He now looks set to be called up to the Lions’ ODI squad for the World Cup in England this summer.

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That has left Hampshire facing a fight to recruit a replacement overseas player in time for the County Championship curtain-raiser on April 5.

But Birrell has no doubt a top international name will be added to the squad for the start of the new season.

The South African said: ‘Dimuth will not be coming.

‘He’s going to be in the Sri Lankan team for the World Cup.

‘You’ve got to acknowledge what he’s done for Sri Lanka.

‘They went to South Africa and beat them at home, when the Proteas have swept away everyone in their path.

‘There is a leadership there that we will miss, too.

‘But we’ll have someone by April 5.’

South Africa stars Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla featured as overseas players for Hampshire last season.

And Birrell has a good relationship with the pair having spent time as assistant coach of the Proteas prior to arriving at the Ageas Bowl.

The pair are almost certain to be involved in South Africa’s bid for World Cup glory in England this summer.

But Birrell revealed the duo loved their time at Hampshire.

And he refused to rule out a return for either man at some stage this season, should they become available.

Birrell added: ‘They would all love to come back, I can assure you.

‘Hashim (Amla) and Dale (Steyn) both loved playing for Hampshire.

‘Myself and Dale chat on WhatsApp but there is nothing confirmed.’