Ashton Agar: Birmingham Bears sign Australia all-rounder for T20 Blast in 2019
Birmingham Bears have signed Australia all-rounder Ashton Agar for their entire T20 Blast campaign in 2019.
The 25-year-old from Victoria, who played alongside Ian Bell to help Perth Scorchers win the Big Bash in 2017, will improve the Bears' spin options.
"It was pretty obvious last year that, with the ball, we lacked potency," Bears coach Jim Troughton told BBC WM.
"It was quite important that we found a spin option. Partnering Jeetan Patel, he could be the difference."
Troughton added: "We had a couple of injuries to key seamers in Olly Stone and Henry Brookes, and we lost Josh Poysden to Yorkshire.
"But what Ash gives us is international experience, spin away from the bat and runs, as well as saving runs and being a gun fielder."
The Bears had three New Zealanders last season - county captain Jeetan Patel, T20 skipper Grant Elliott and Colin de Grandhomme - as the 2014 winners (and 2015 and 2017 finalists) failed to make it out of the group for the second time in three seasons.
But, following Elliott's retirement, they have also decided not to call back De Grandhomme for a third season.
"The first person I got on the phone to once this was sorted was Colin," said Troughton. "To thank him for his efforts and the standard he's brought over the past two seasons.
"We'll miss Col's power, but this gives us more bowling options. And Belly gave us a good reference from their time together at Perth.
"There's a slight fear we might lose him if he gets selected for Australia or The Ashes, it might affect his involvement, but we've essentially been able to sign him for all group games, then hopefully the quarters and Finals Day."
Agar has made more than half of his total of 28 international appearances in T20 cricket, taking 10 wickets at an economy rate of 7.47.
In 71 T20 matches overall, he has made 673 runs and taken 46 wickets, while he also took nine wickets at an average of 23.11 in his six Blast games for Middlesex last season.
He first made his name in English cricket in 2013 when, coming in as an injury replacement at 19 years of age, he scored 98 on his Test debut against England at Trent Bridge batting at number 11.
He kept his place for the second Test at Lord's, but he has since played just two more Tests, in Bangladesh in August and September 2017.
Jim Troughton was talking to BBC WM's Richard Wilford.