Hampshire have confirmed the signing of Ross Whiteley on a three-year, white-ball contract in a move that will raise questions about the independence of Hundred teams from their affiliated host counties.
Whiteley, 33, announced earlier this month that he would leave Worcestershire after turning down a contract extension with the club. As revealed by ESPNcricinfo, a number of counties including Sussex were interested in signing him but he has opted to join Hampshire, saying in a club statement he was "thrilled to be joining an exciting group of players in the search for more trophies".
The deal will come under scrutiny since Whiteley was a key member of the Southern Brave side which won the inaugural edition of the men's Hundred, hitting 44 not out off 19 balls in the final against Birmingham Phoenix. The Brave are based at the Ageas Bowl and there was significant overlap between their playing and coaching staff and Hampshire's.
While there is no suggestion of wrongdoing from Hampshire or Whiteley, his comments upon completing his move will raise fears that the counties whose home grounds also host Hundred teams are effectively able to sell their club's facilities to players from smaller counties during the course of the tournament, which could lead to a short-term talent drain.
"I spent a little bit of time down here during the Hundred and fell in love with the place, really," Whiteley told BBC Solent. "There were quite a few of the backroom staff involved and obviously Vincey [James Vince] was a big part of the Southern Brave. It felt like a really good fit."
Last month, Lancashire announced that they had signed Phil Salt (who played for Manchester Originals) from Sussex, while Derbyshire's Matt Critchley (Welsh Fire) has been the subject of recent interest from Glamorgan.
Whiteley will officially join Hampshire on November 1 and his move appears to have brought his first-class career to an end after 89 matches, 3577 runs and 41 wickets, following his decision to sign white-ball-only terms.
Giles White, Hampshire's director of cricket, said: ''We are delighted Ross has decided to sign with Hampshire after his lengthy spell at Worcestershire. When a player of Ross's calibre becomes available there is always interest from a number of counties so it's fantastic he'll be joining up with us later this year."