Bagnall Norton Cricket Club have acted quickly to bring in a stellar talent from overseas ahead of the 2021 campaign after their original signing had to pull out.
The Staffordshire outfit were due to welcome right-arm medium-fast bowler Christi Viljoen of Namibia this summer.
However, the move was called off this week due to Covid-19 travel issues with the all-rounder currently in New Zealand playing for Otago.
The club did not rest on their laurels, though, and secured an exciting replacement in quick time.
Bagnall revealed on Tuesday that Pakistan international Bilawal Bhatti would be representing the club as their overseas player in the upcoming North Staffordshire and South Cheshire Premier Cricket League (NSSCPCL) campaign.
The 29-year-old has featured in two test matches for his country, taking five wickets in two innings on his debut versus Sri Lanka in December 2013 and January 2014 [match played over new year].
He was also part of the squad that competed in the 2014 Twenty20 World Cup.
On his ODI debut for Pakistan against South Africa in November 2013, he hit 39 off 25 balls before taking 3-37 later in the day to help his nation claim the win.
He has had less memorable times on the international stage too, though, conceding 93 runs without wicket in Pakistan’s second ODI against New Zealand in 2015.
At the time it equalled the record for the most runs conceded by a Pakistan bowler in an ODI but this has now been surpassed by Wahab Riaz’s 0-110 at Trent Bridge against England in 2016.
Nevertheless, Bhatti attains a superb first-class record having taken 384 wickets – including 14 fifers – in only 101 games.
He once claimed 8-56 in an innings and then 11-95 during a match – both at first-class level.
He has proven to be nifty with the bat too, hitting two centuries and five half-centuries in his career.
In November 2020, he was hospitalised after being hit on the head by a bouncer while at the crease during a match while playing for Southern Punjab against Baolchistan in Pakistan.
However Bhatti made a speedy recovery, afterwards tweeting that he was “absolutely fine.”
Bhatti has actually played against Bagnall before, knocking 81 and recording 4-30 for Hem Heath in 2015.
Bagnall first team captain Justin Mould was pleased with his club’s acquisition.
“I’m delighted to sign an experienced professional who has played at a high level,” he said.
“Bilawal is a fast bowler who will lead the bowling attack and is capable of scoring quick runs in the middle order.
“He will be exciting to watch and I’m hoping he can pass on some of his knowledge onto the lads which should help to develop them.
“Obviously, we welcome him on board and wish him a successful season with us at Bagnall Norton.”
Bagnall finished bottom of the NSSCPCL Premier Division table in their debut season in the top-flight.
A similar finish this time would see them drop back into Division 1 with promotion and relegation coming back in for 2021 – something that was halted last year due to a shortened season amid coronavirus.
They start the new campaign by travelling to Leek on April 24 on the opening weekend.
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