Hassan Azad in the frame for Northants deal but club keeping their 'options open'

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John Sadler says Northants are keeping their 'options open' when it comes to signing opening batter Hassan Azad.

The former Leicestershire man has been training at the County Ground for the past week, and is playing in the current pre-season friendly against Worcestershire.

The 29-year-old opened the batting alongside Ricardo Vasconcelos on Friday morning with the club looking at their options after losing Emilio Gay for the start of the season.

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Gay has undergone knee surgery after getting injured in training, and Azad has been drafted in as a possible replacement.

Hassan Azad in action for LeicestershireHassan Azad in action for Leicestershire
Hassan Azad in action for Leicestershire

Sadler is well aware of Azad's ability, having worked with him at Leicestershire, and he has branded the player a 'high-quality' top order batter.

The head coach insists nothing has as yet been signed and sealed as to whether or not Azad will put pen to paper on any sort of deal at Wantage Road.

But he also states the player could be involved when Northants start their LV= Insurance County Championship campaign against Kent in Canterbury on April 6.

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"We don't know what will happen yet and we will keep our options open," said Sadler.

"Hassan is with us, he is training with us, and we have just said 'look, come in and get some training done and then let's see where you're at'.

"We will pick the best team available for our first game, and if that means Hassan's in it then great. But he has got to earn his place, like everybody does.

"There has nothing been offered yet, long-term or anything like that, he has just come in, and will be training and be part of our squad for the next couple of weeks and then we will see where it takes us.

"But I have got an existing relationship with Hass.

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"I have seen him play at his best, and I know he is a high-quality, top-order, opening batsman, and that's the void we have at the minute with Emilio's injury.

"If he plays, then great, but as I say he has to earn his place like everybody else."

Azad was born in Quetta in Pakistan, and lived there until he was 15 when his family moved to the UK.

Initially he was part of the Nottinghamshire Academy, but failed to impress, and he then started studying for a chemical engineering degree at Loughborough University.

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He played first-class cricket in his four years at Loughborough, where his coach was Russell Cobb, father of Northants one-day skipper Josh.

In 2019, when he was 25, after a successful trial, Azad was offered a professional contract at Leicestershire, where Sadler was assistant coach.

The player certainly took his chance, amassing 1,189 runs in Championship Division Two, at an average of 54.04 - scoring three centuries along the way.

He has struggled to reach those heights since, though, averaging fewer than 20 in the Covid-hit 2020 summer, and a modest 28.77 in 2021 and 28.95 in 2022.

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That led to the Foxes releasing him at the end of last season, and he has been working with the Birmingham-based South Asian Cricket Academy over the winter months.

In his first-class career, Azad has scored 2,900 runs at an average of 36.70, and has hit hit seven centuries and 16 half-centuries.

A four-day specialist, he has yet to play a senior white-ball match.

Azad will be hoping he will get the chance to resurrect his first-class career with Northants over the coming weeks.

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Meanwhile, Northants had a good day with the ball in hand on day one of the friendly clash with Worcestershire.

A total of 10 bowlers were used as Worcester made 159 for eight in 59.2 overs, before rain brought a halt to proceedings.

Jack White was the standout performer for the County, claiming remarkable figures of five for 15 from 12 overs, while there were also wickets for Gareth Berg, James Sales and Gus Miller.

At one point, White and Berg had reduced the visitors to nought for three, but they recovered well, mainly thanks to 59 from Gareth Roderick.