London: Owais Shah has become the second major international signing for New Zealand's domestic Twenty20 competition next season after joining Wellington. Shah follows in the footsteps of Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan, who was snapped up by Northern Districts on the back of his outstanding form in the World Twenty20.
Shah was in middling form during that tournament but is recognised as a damaging Twenty20 player, averaging 30.68 from 55 matches in the format, with a strike rate of 133.66. The deal was organised by Stephen Fleming and the Cricket Wellington chief executive Gavin Larsen, and means Shah will be part of the Wellington squad for a month from late December.
"Gavin and I went through a number of options but Owais was at the top of our list," the Wellington coach Anthony Stuart told the Dominion Post. "He is a top Twenty20 player, he is still playing for England and his attitude to coming out here is terrific, so it is a really good outcome for all concerned.
"Bowling-wise we are pretty well off when all the boys are fit, so we felt we needed a little more hitting power in our top order. That was the area where we hurt a bit last season. Owais has batted No. 3 for England so that is where he will bat for us. I don't see any point doing anything different."
Fleming spent time playing with Shah at Middlesex in 2001 and said Wellington would be boosted by his arrival. "In my mind he is one of the better international Twenty20 batsmen in the world and is a player who has an excellent grasp of the batting strategy required for Twenty20 cricket," Fleming said. "He certainly has the ability to make a huge impact on the Firebirds' Twenty20 season."