Durham have pulled off one of the most high-profile overseas signings of the season after confirming Kumar Sangakkara will join them on a short-term deal.
The left-hander has long been linked with a move to the Champions, and will now be part of the line-up for their County Championship matches against Yorkshire and Sussex.
He will join Australian all-rounder John Hastings, who signed for Durham in early March.
Despite being one of the game’s biggest names globally, Sangakkara is no stranger to the humble surroundings of English county cricket, playing for Warwickshire for part of the 2007 season.
More recently, he was part of the Sri Lanka side that lifted the T20 World Cup after 18 years without an ICC Trophy, and also reminded the world of his talents with a century against India in the Asia Cup. The 36-year-old made his Sri Lanka debut against South Africa in July 2000, scoring his first Test century within a year in a home series against India. He has since gone on to appear in 122 Tests, though he gave up the captaincy in 2011 to Tillakaratne Dilshan.
The stint with Durham has little chance of being extended, though, as he will return to international duty in late May. He will not be going far, however, as Sri Lanka face England in a one-off T20 on May 20, before heading into five ODIs and two Tests. Durham’s games against Yorkshire and Sussex may even pit him against his summer opponents in Joe Root and Matt Prior, who will be warming up with their respective counties.
Signing a player of Sangakkara’s fame and ability is almost unprecedented, but to Durham’s advantage is that he is one of the most notable players who is available after choosing not to take part in IPL 7.
It is certainly a statement of intent by Durham coach Jon Lewis, who told the BBC – while the deal was still unconfirmed - that Sangakkara would be a “tremendous signing” for his side. The batsman – who has a test average of nearly 59 – also kept wicket in the past for Sri Lanka, meaning he can provide cover, if needed, for Phil Mustard.
After winning the Division One title last time out, Durham have begun this season indifferently. Both their first two matches ended in draws against newly-promoted Northamptonshire and Somerset. The Northants result will particularly infuriate Lewis, after Durham had the Steelbacks on the ropes for so long. Against Somerset, too, victory would have been in their grasp had it not been for the efforts of Nick Compton, who scored a century to secure the draw.
Sangakkara’s signing will be a welcome one then, as they look for an experienced head to get their season truly up and running.
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