Virus puts paid to Siddle's 2020 Essex stint

London (AFP) –


Former Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle's return to county champions Essex has been delayed until at least 2021 after the coronavirus put paid to the start of this year's English season, he announced Thursday.

The 35-year-old took 34 wickets at an impressive average of 20.08 in eight matches last year as Essex won the County Championship First Division title.

He had been all set for a return to the county's headquarters in Chelmsford, east of London.

But with the pandemic bringing cricket to a standstill worldwide and suspending the start of the English season until at least May 28, with further delays looking likely, Siddle and Essex have agreed to hold his deal over until next year.

"It's a shame I won't be returning to Chelmsford this year as I was really looking forward to the season with the Eagles, but there are plenty of things more important than cricket going on in the world at the moment," said Siddle.

"In light of the current situation, it makes sense for me to come back over for the 2021 season when hopefully we're back to normal and playing cricket again," added Siddle, who took 221 wickets in 67 Tests and helped Australia retain the Ashes last year.

Several counties have either postponed or completely cancelled contracts with overseas players as a result of the ongoing pandemic, with Australia batsman Peter Handscomb saying earlier Thursday that his deal to captain Middlesex was "on hold".

Meanwhile doubts remain over whether Australian lockdown regulations that ban citizens from overseas travel will allow Sussex coach and former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie, currently in Adelaide, to take up his post with the south coast club should the English season get underway.