Somerset have confirmed that Babar Azam will be available for seven Vitality Blast group-stage games, and the knockout stages should they qualify, as revealed by ESPNcricinfo.
Babar’s availability hinged on a no-objection certificate from the PCB, and a new visa being arranged for his county stint. But those hurdles have been cleared, and he is expected to make his first appearance of the season in Somerset’s televised fixture against Worcestershire at Edgbaston on September 3.
He was the competition’s leading run-scorer last season, with 578 runs at 52.54 and a strike rate of 149.35, and will be the Blast’s most high-profile overseas player in a year that has seen the majority of internationals have their contracts cancelled or deferred due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
No other Pakistan players have confirmed Blast stints as yet, though it is understood Hampshire are still confident about the possibility of having Shaheen Shah Afridi available for the latter part of the group stage following the T20I series against England.
Andy Hurry, Somerset’s director of cricket, said: “We originally agreed terms and announced Babar’s signing prior to the impact of Covid-19. However, since then there have obviously been revisions to the domestic and Vitality Blast schedules.
“Since the confirmation of the 2020 fixtures we have been working collaboratively with the ECB, PCB, Babar and his management team to ensure that we could all make the necessary adjustments that would enable him to join us to fulfil the pre-existing agreement.”
“I really enjoyed playing for Somerset last year and I can’t wait to get back to the club,” Babar said. “For obvious reasons, this year has been very different from what we were all expecting, and I fully appreciate the challenges the game has faced globally as well as here in England.
“We have all had to adapt and I’m just really pleased that we could find a way to make this happen. I hope that I can help to contribute to success on the field for Somerset again.”
Meanwhile, Warwickshire have confirmed the signing of Jake Lintott for the whole of the Blast. Lintott, a left-arm wristspinner, has played four professional T20s – one for Hampshire in 2017 and three for Gloucestershire the following summer – and goes straight into the Birmingham Bears’ squad to play Glamorgan on Sunday.