Pakistan's white-ball skipper Babar Azam will be returning to Somerset for the 2020 Vitality Blast that had been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the English club announced on Saturday.
He is set to join Somerset at the conclusion of the T20I series as he will be linking up with the squad on Wednesday.
Babar, the world's top-ranked T20I batsman, had a prolific run in last year's edition of the T20 Blast as he racked up a mammoth sum of 578 runs at an impressive average of 52.54. He also compiled a century during the competition and maintained an astounding strike rate of 149.35.
Somerset will be able to avail the star batsman's services for their final seven group games plus the knockout stages. However, this might entail Babar's unavailability for the start of Pakistan's National T20 Cup, which is expected to commence on September 30.
“I really enjoyed playing for Somerset last year and I can’t wait to get back to the Club. 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," Babar said.
“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.”
Babar had initially signed the deal with Somerset in January but the uncertainty surrounding the start of England's domestic season due to the heavy impact of the Covid-19 crisis threatened their plans.
While several counties have cancelled contracts with overseas players owing to the virus-induced travel restrictions in place, Somerset have been able to salvage Babar's association with them.
“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," said Somerset director of cricket Andy Hurry.
“Babar already being in England for the Test & IT20 series against England has helped us significantly and we are very grateful to Babar and his management team for their understanding of the current challenges and their flexibility.
“He is a great player, is so easy on the eye and fitted brilliantly into our environment last year. We consider Babar to be one of our own and our Members and supporters will be really looking forward to seeing him perform for Somerset again via our Live Stream service or if it is permissible, here at the Cooper Associates County Ground,” he concluded.