It has now been over half a century since the doors were opened to allow overseas cricketers to start playing English county cricket on a regular basis.
Most of the world’s best have since graced the county game in one form or another.
But, at a time when the affordability of overseas players is being questioned in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, maybe now is the moment to consider who has been each county’s best overseas player?
Click on the link by your selected county below to register your selection and votes will remain open until Thursday, 7 May at 16:00 BST, with the winners being revealed on the BBC Sport website shortly afterwards.
Following the Bears
Warwickshire got the ball rolling last month in an online poll when the Bears’ members and supporters chose former South Africa fast bowler Allan Donald as their best overseas player ahead of Brian Lara, Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharran, Lance Gibbs, Jeetan Patel and others.
But the same sort of debates are to be had at the other first-class counties too.
With the help of the BBC’s local radio cricket commentary teams, BBC Sport has whittled it down to four selections from each of the 18 counties.
Such is the quality of choice that great names including Allan Border, Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly, Muttiah Muralitharan, Martin Crowe, Shaun Pollock and Glenn McGrath have not made the shortlists.
Neither has Imran Tahir, who has represented a record eight counties, nor Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who has scored nearly 6,000 first-class runs with four different counties.
Our nominations are not based purely on runs and wickets, but on their lasting legacy and star quality – that magical ingredient which gets bums on seats, helps to win trophies and even then has the added bonus parting shot of “and he was a good bloke too”.
The nominations for each county are as follows:
Eddie Barlow: The South African all-rounder was 35 when he began his association with Derbyshire but made a huge impact in four seasons with the county (1976-1978 and 1980), scoring 2,813 runs and taking 98 wickets in 60 first-class games, plus 1,584 runs and 111 wickets at 16.27 in 63 one-dayers.
John Wright: The New Zealand Test opener served Derbyshire from 1977 to 1988, hitting 10,368 runs in 156 first-class games and 4,331 one-day runs, helping to win the tied last-ball 1981 NatWest Trophy final. Is now club president.
Michael Holding: After half a season with Lancashire in 1981, the West Indies Test fast bowling legend moved to Derbyshire to take 224 first-class wickets in 66 games and also claim 154 one-day scalps, as well as scaring any number of top-line batsmen.
Peter Kirsten: The prolific South African’s eight first-class hundreds in the 1982 season is still a Derbyshire record. Also scored six double centuries in his 7,722 runs in 107 matches. Over four seasons from 1979 to 1982, Wright and Peter Kirsten scored 42 of the county’s 60 first-class centuries.
Callum Thorp: No-nonsense Australian bowler who put it on a length and caused problems for batsmen all over the country. Thorp was key in all Durham achieved during their late 2000s heyday, taking 257 first-class wickets in 88 matches and a further 40 in the one-day game.
Dale Benkenstein: Arrived from South Africa in 2005 to help turn Durham into a county cricket force. Won promotion in his first year and led the county to the first of three titles in 2008, and a One-Day Cup. Made 21 centuries, a then-record for Durham which has since been beaten by Paul Collingwood’s 25.
David Boon: The Australian opener helped shape the club into a competitive force after seven years towards the bottom of the table and inspired them to Division One for the start of the new two-tier league structure in 2000. Made 3,007 first-class runs and 1,465 in one-day cricket.
Michael Di Venuto: Won two league titles and a cup with Durham after being let go by Derbyshire. Broke the record for the most runs in a season (1,654) as Durham went through the entire County Championship campaign unbeaten in 2009 to retain their title.
Keith Boyce: Made 8,648 runs and took 662 wickets in 211 matches in his 11 years with the county from 1967 to 1977. Also made 2,249 one-day runs and took 243 wickets. Made 21 Test appearances for West Indies.
Ken McEwan: The exciting South African batsman plundered 18,088 runs in 282 first-class matches between 1974 and 1985. Helped Essex win their first three titles in 1979, 1983 (when he was top scorer in the country with 2,051 runs) and 1984, and their first five one-day trophies.
Mark Waugh: The twin brother of former Australia captain Steve Waugh made 6,690 runs for Essex (including 1,253 at 78.31 in the 1992 title-winning season) between joining the county in 1988 and his sixth and last visit in 2002. Also made 2,992 one-day runs. Played 128 Tests for Australia.
Ryan ten Doeschate: The South Africa-born Netherlands international has now made over 500 appearances since his Essex debut on the opening weekend of T20 cricket in June 2003. Has scored 9,309 runs and taken 187 wickets in 179 first-class matches, made 3,621 runs in 159 List A games and 3,143 runs in 151 T20 games, helping Essex win three trophies.
Majid Khan: The popular 63-times capped Pakistan Test batsman was part of Glamorgan’s 1969 Championship-winning side. Made 21 centuries in his 9,610 runs in 154 first-class games, taking 51 wickets. Also hit 2,543 one-day runs in 113 games and took 33 wickets with his economical off-spin.
Michael Kasprowicz: Australian Test fast bowler who would bowl all day – and was one of the nicest men in the game. Having previously had seasons with Essex (1994) and Leicestershire (1999), took 151 wickets in his 34 first-class Glamorgan games from 2002 to 2004, scoring three fifties in his 1,034 runs. Also claimed 57 List A scalps in 43 games.
Sir Viv Richards: The West Indies legend had four seasons with Glamorgan at the tail end of his career, from the age of 38, having enjoyed the majority of his success in county cricket with Somerset, but was an inspiration. Scored 3,382 first-class runs, including 10 tons, in 49 games, as well as 1,921 one-day runs, helping the Welsh county win the 1993 Sunday League title.
Waqar Younis: Pakistan paceman played a key role in the Championship-winning side in 1997, when his 68 wickets helped earn Glamorgan’s first title in 28 years. Waqar also had a short spell at Warwickshire and three years with Surrey, but it was for Glamorgan that he had his main impact.
Courtney Walsh: The West Indies fast bowler, who took a record 519 wickets for his country in 132 Tests, also claimed 869 in 184 first-class matches for Gloucestershire in his 11 seasons between 1984 and 1998. The Jamaican also claimed 243 scalps in 175 one-day games for the county.
Ian Harvey: Gloucestershire won six of the eight one-day knockout trophies in their history in the eight years that this 73-times capped Australia one-day international all-rounder was on the books. Harvey piled up 3,333 runs and 228 wickets in 115 one-day games for Gloucestershire and also made 2,710 first-class runs and took 180 wickets.
Mike Procter: Played just seven Tests for South Africa because of the country’s apartheid regime, which proved to the benefit of Gloucestershire, who became nicknamed ‘Proctershire’ such was his influence. After making his debut in 1965 against the South African tourists, he went on the make 14,441 runs and take 833 wickets in 259 first-class games, plus 5,631 runs and 280 wickets in 223 one-day games, helping the county to two trophies.
Zaheer Abbas: The Pakistan Test great made 206 first-class appearances in 12 seasons between 1972 and 1984, amassing 16,088 runs at 49.79. Also made 7,103 runs in 209 limited-over appearances. For most of his time in Bristol, played alongside Pakistan team-mate, Sadiq Mohammad, who himself made 12,012 first-class and 4,982 one-day runs.
Barry Richards: Classy South African opener who only played four Tests but made the most of his enforced exile from international cricket to plunder 15,607 runs, including 38 tons, at an average of 50.50 in 204 matches in 11 years with Hampshire from 1968 to 1978. Also scored 6,708 runs in 186 one-day games.
Gordon Greenidge: The Barbados-born opener had already made more than 100 first-class appearances, mostly for Hampshire, before making the first of 108 Test appearances for West Indies in November 1974. Ended up making 19,840 runs in 275 first-class games for Hampshire between his debut in 1970 and 1987, as well as 9,801 runs in 274 one-day games.
Malcolm Marshall: West Indies Test legend who took 826 first-class and 239 List A wickets in his 11 years with Hampshire spread between 1979 and 1993. Also weighed in with 5,847 first-class runs, including five tons and 26 fifties, and 2,073 in one-day cricket.
Shane Warne: The star Australian leg-spinner – cricket’s second-highest Test wicket-taker with 708 – first joined Hampshire in 2000, returning for the last four years of his first-class and List A career as captain (2004-2007). Claimed 276 wickets and made 2,040 runs in 66 first-class games, with a further 120 wickets and 568 runs in 71 List A appearances.
Aravinda de Silva: The Sri Lanka star had just one season at Canterbury, but what a season. He made 473 runs, including two tons, as Kent won the 1995 Sunday League, hit a Lord’s century in the Benson & Hedges Cup final defeat by Lancashire and struck six tons in his 1,661 runs from 15 Championship matches. That was not enough to prevent Kent finishing bottom of the table.
Asif Iqbal: Pakistan batsman and brilliant fielder, who bowled medium pace. Scored 13,231 runs in 243 first-class games for Kent, who he captained in 1977, 1981 and 1982. Also made 5,554 one-day runs in 241 games and took 179 wickets in both forms of the game during 14 years of service (1968-1982). Won four Lord’s one-day trophies, three Sunday Leagues and two Championship titles.
Carl Hooper: Guyana-born batsman and off-spinner spent five full summers with Kent (1992-94, 1996 and 1998) during the course of his 102-match West Indies Test career. Scored 6,714 runs at 50.48 and took 154 wickets in 85 first-class games, and 4,158 runs and 91 wickets in 113 one-day games.
John Shepherd: West Indies all-rounder only played five Tests, but that included a five-wicket debut haul against England in Manchester in 1969, starting with the scalp of Geoffrey Boycott. Scored 9,401 runs and took 832 wickets in 303 first-class games for Kent plus 3,555 runs and 99 wickets in 250 one-day games.
Clive Lloyd: Made 219 first-class appearances around his glittering West Indies career for Lancashire between 1968 and 1986, hitting 30 of his 79 career tons in his haul of 12,764 runs. Also a serial one-day trophy winner in 273 games.
Farokh Engineer: The Indian wicketkeeper-batsman made 5,942 first-class runs, took 429 catches and made 35 stumpings in 175 games for the Red Rose from 1968 to 1976. A key part of Lancashire’s all-conquering one-day golden era side, making 154 appearances.
Ted McDonald: The Australian Test fast bowler took 1,053 wickets in 217 matches spread over the space of little more than seven years from 1924 to 1931 and helped to win four of the county’s five Championship titles between the two world wars in Lancashire’s golden age.
Wasim Akram: The Pakistan all-rounder played 91 first-class and 165 one-day games between 1988 and 1998, helping to win five of Lancashire’s seven one-day trophies in that time. Took 374 first-class wickets and a further 260 one-day scalps – and made a combined 5,533 runs.
Brian Davison: Bulawayo-born batsman made 18,537 runs in 303 first-class games in 14 years with Leicestershire (1970-1983), hitting 37 tons. Also scored 6,744 runs in 276 one-day games. Played for his native Rhodesia before they achieved Test status as Zimbabwe.
Hylton Ackerman: Scored 5,700 first-class runs for Leicestershire over five successive seasons (2005-2009), three times reaching 1,000 and with a best of 1,804 in 2006, including an unbeaten career-best 309 at Glamorgan. Made 2,037 List A runs in 63 games and 1,231 more in T20 cricket, helping the Foxes to the second of their three T20 Finals Day triumphs.
Phil Simmons: West Indies opener made 2,661 first-class runs and took 109 wickets in 51 games in three seasons at Grace Road, helping the Foxes win the County Championship in 1996 and 1998. Scored 1,186 runs at 56.47 in the 1996 triumph. Also made 2,716 one-day runs and took 63 wickets.
Winston Benjamin: West Indies paceman took 237 first-class wickets and hit 1,930 runs (including a then career-best 101 not out) in six seasons at Grace Road between 1986 and 1993. Bettered that ton with 117 for Hampshire, where he also had spells in 1994 and 1996. Also took 104 List A wickets for the Foxes.
Chris Rogers: Australia Test opener played 151 games in English county cricket with five different counties – Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northants, Middlesex and Somerset. But it was at Lord’s where he spent most time, playing 60 matches, captaining the side in 2014 and making 4,812 of his overall county haul of 12,642 runs.
Desmond Haynes: West Indies Test opener made 7,071 runs, at 49.10, in 95 first-class matches in his five seasons at Lord’s between 1989 and 1994, including 21 of his 61 career centuries. Also made six more tons in one-day cricket, in his haul of 4,105 runs for Middlesex in 96 matches. Won the County Championship in 1990 and 1993 and the Sunday League in 1992.
Vintcent van der Bijl: The tall South African made a massive impact in his full season at Lord’s in 1980, the perfect contrast to the pace and power of Wayne Daniel. He took 85 first-class wickets and claimed 25 List A scalps to help Middlesex win the County Championship and Gillette Cup double.
Wayne Daniel: The West Indies fast bowler took 71 wickets as Middlesex shared the county title with Kent in 1977, again contributing massively as they won three more (1980, 1982 and 1985), as well as five one-day trophies. Took over 1,000 wickets (685 first-class, 316 in one-day cricket).
Bishan Bedi: Much-liked slow left-arm Indian Test spinner, who set a trend for bowling in his wide range of colourful patkas, inspiring a generation as he charmed his way to 437 wickets in 110 games in his five seasons with Northants (1972-73 and 1975-77). His 53 List A wickets included three in the 1976 Gillette Cup final win over Lancashire at Lord’s.
Curtly Ambrose: Between 1989 and 1996, the West Indies Test fast bowler took 318 wickets in 78 first-class matches and 115 wickets in 95 one-day appearances, highlighted by two scalps in Northants’ NatWest Trophy final win over Leicestershire at Lord’s in 1992. His 405 Test wickets puts him 15th on the all-time list.
Mushtaq Mohammad: After his Northants debut against the 1964 Australian tourists, the Pakistan batsman, from the illustrious Mohammad cricketing family of four Test-playing brothers, enjoyed 12 years’ almost uninterrupted service (1966-1977). He made 15,961 runs in 262 first-class matches, including 32 centuries, as well as taking 551 wickets with his leg spin. Also made 3,924 one-day runs.
Sarfraz Nawaz: Pakistan fast bowler had 12 full seasons in England (three of which included Test tours) from 1969 to 1982, taking 511 first-class and 224 one-day wickets. More than useful tail-ender who scored 3,212 first-class runs, including 10 fifties, and 1,177 in limited-overs cricket. Key part of 1976 and 1980 Lord’s one-day trophy winning teams.
Clive Rice: The South African enjoyed 13 years’ unbroken service for Notts from 1975 to 1987, the last 10 as captain, during which time he led them to two County Championships (1981 and 1987) and the 1987 NatWest Trophy to complete the double. Scored 17,053 runs and took 476 wickets in 283 first-class games, plus 8,666 runs and 291 wickets in one-day cricket.
David Hussey: Australia one-day batsman who gave a decade of service between 2004 and 2013, helping Notts to win the County Championship in 2005 and 2010. Made 23 centuries out of his 6,312 runs in 81 first-class matches. Also scored well in one-day cricket, hitting 1,990 in 72 List A games and 1,922 in 70 T20s.
Sir Garfield Sobers: The West Indies Test legend was 33 when he joined Notts in 1968. Famously became the first man to hit six sixes in one over in first-class cricket in the final game of his first season, against Glamorgan at Swansea. The left-hander struck 7,041 runs and took 281 wickets in 107 first-class games, plus 2,553 runs and 103 wickets in 86 List A matches.
Sir Richard Hadlee: The great New Zealand all-rounder was voted PCA Player of the Year in Notts’ trophy winning seasons of 1981 and 1987. Represented the county for 10 straight seasons from 1978 to 1987, taking 622 wickets and making 5,854 runs in 148 first-class games. Also scored 2,951 runs and took 231 wickets in 160 List A games.
Alfonso Thomas: After first being brought over to English cricket by Warwickshire in 2007, the South African seamer then spent the next eight seasons with Somerset, taking 308 first-class wickets in 92 matches, as well as making 1,869 runs. Also took 250 wickets in limited-over games, ending up five times a beaten finalist, twice in the CB40 at Lord’s and three times in the T20 competition.
Bill Alley: Popular Australian all-rounder, who bowled right-fast medium and batted left-handed. Played 350 first-class games (1957-1968) before retiring as a player to spend 17 years as a first-class umpire, standing in 10 Tests. Hit 24 centuries in his 16,664 first-class runs, and took 738 wickets. Claimed 3-22 in the 1967 Lord’s Gillette Cup final defeat by Kent.
Joel Garner: Gangling 6ft 8in Barbados paceman known throughout his career as ‘Big Bird’. Had already made his West Indies Test debut when he joined in 1977. Ended up with 338 first-class wickets for Somerset and 206 in 128 List A games, also playing a pivotal part of the county’s run of five one-day trophies between 1979 and 1983.
Sir Viv Richards: First joined Somerset in 1974 in the same batch of new arrivals as Ian Botham, Vic Marks and the late Peter Roebuck. On top of 8,540 Test runs for the West Indies, Richards hit 58 tons in his 14,698 first-class and 7,349 one-day runs for Somerset until 1986, when he and Garner were ousted as overseas signings, and Botham followed in protest – but not before the county had won five trophies.
Intikhab Alam: The former Pakistan Test captain took 629 wickets and hit 5,707 runs in 232 first-class appearances for Surrey (1969-81). The leg spinner had been a Test cricketer for 10 years when he first came to The Oval in 1969. Stayed on after Pakistan’s summer tour to England in 1971, taking 32 wickets late in Surrey’s County Championship title win.
Kumar Sangakkara: Hit 14 tons in just 33 matches in three seasons for Surrey (2015-17), totalling 3,400 first-class runs at 62.96. That and his 1,941 limited-over runs are dwarfed by his record for Sri Lanka, for whom he made more than 28,000 runs across all formats. His happy, smiling countenance and quality of batsmanship left a marvellous impression at The Oval.
Saqlain Mushtaq: England’s spin bowling coach also took 208 wickets in 49 Tests for Pakistan between 1995 and 2004. But for most of that time he was a Surrey player, taking 424 first-class wickets in 94 matches for the county and a further 120 in limited-over games. A handy lower-order batsman too, hitting 2,080 runs in all forms of the game.
Sylvester Clarke: Played just 11 Tests for the West Indies – but that was down to the sheer number of quality fast bowlers coming out of the Caribbean at that time. It left him free to take 591 first-class wickets in 152 games for Surrey, backed by 2,130 runs, including a ton against Glamorgan at Swansea in 1981. Also took 212 one-day wickets.
Imran Khan: Educated at Worcester’s Royal Grammar School, the future Pakistan World Cup-winning captain and prime minister began his career with Worcestershire. But the majority of his time in England was spent with Sussex, hitting 7,329 runs and taking 409 wickets in 131 first-class games. Also scored 4,298 runs and took 209 wickets in List A cricket, helping Sussex to two Lord’s one-day final wins.
Murray Goodwin: Zimbabwe Test batsman amassed 14,572 runs in 191 first-class games for Sussex (2001-2012), his 48 centuries including two triple-hundreds, the best of which was his unbeaten 344 against Somerset at Taunton in 2009 out of Sussex’s county record score of 742-5 declared. Goodwin also made 6,495 runs in 203 one-day games.
Mushtaq Ahmed: Pakistan leg-spinner first came to English cricket with Somerset in 1993 and had a spell with Surrey before moving to Hove for 2003, after which he took 478 wickets in 85 games, and hit eight half-centuries. A key part of all three of Sussex title wins, taking 103 wickets in 2003, 102 in 2006 and 90 in 2007.
Steve Magoffin: Australian fast bowler played for Surrey and Worcestershire before joining Sussex in 2009. Ended up taking 334 first-class wickets before leaving at the end of the 2017 season to return to New Road. He managed 16 wickets in just six games before injury struck and he retired to become Worcestershire’s women’s coach.
Allan Donald: The South Africa fast bowler, nicknamed ‘White Lightning’, spent 13 years associated with Warwickshire (1987-2000), taking 536 first-class wickets in 141 games, including 88 in the 1995 County Championship title defence. His 245 one-day scalps helped to win the NatWest Trophy in 1989 and 1995, and the 1997 Sunday League.
Alvin Kallicharran: Twice a World Cup-winner with the West Indies, Warwickshire’s diminutive but at times devastating Guyanese played 285 first-class games between 1971 and 1990, making 18,158 first-class runs, and a further 8,823 in 289 one-day games. That helped to win the 1972 County Championship, the 1980 Sunday League and the 1989 NatWest Trophy.
Brian Lara: Came as a stand-in for Donald in 1994 to plunder 2,066 first-class runs at 89.82, including a world record 501 not out, as Warwickshire won the Championship, Benson & Hedges Cup and Sunday League treble. The West Indies legend returned as captain in 1998 but less successfully, managing only half the amount of first-class runs (1,033). Scored 1,308 one-day runs over the two seasons.
Rohan Kanhai: The first of Warwickshire’s two ‘Special K’ signings from Guyana, he made 11,615 first-class runs in 173 games at 51.62 for the Bears between 1968 and 1977, including 1,437 in the 1972 title-winning season. Also helped the Bears win the Gillette Cup in his first season. Scored 6,227 runs in his 79 Tests for the West Indies.
Glenn Turner: The New Zealand Test opener made 72 of his 103 first-class tons for Worcestershire over 16 seasons (1967-1982). His 22,298 runs at 52.09 in 284 first-class games is the most by any overseas player in England. Reached his 100th century against Warwickshire at New Road in his final season, making 311 not out on the first day, including a century in each session. Holds the world record for highest percentage of runs in an innings after scoring an unbeaten 141 out of 169 against Glamorgan at Swansea in 1977.
Ron Headley: The son of West Indies legend George Headley and father of England fast bowler Dean Headley, Jamaican Ron only played two Tests for the West Indies on their 1973 tour to England. But, between 1958 and 1974, he made 20,712 first-class runs for Worcestershire in 403 matches and 3,476 one-day runs.
Tom Moody: After a superb 1,163 runs in nine first-class games in 1990 with Warwickshire, Moody moved to Worcestershire in 1991 and spent eight years making 8,943 runs in 120 first-class games, and 6,845 one-day runs. Helped to win two trophies, the second of which denied the Bears all four titles in 1994. Began his coaching career at New Road after retiring as a player.
Vanburn Holder: Barbados-born West Indies Test fast bowler who took 586 first-class wickets in 181 matches, and made 1,553 runs as a tail-end batsman, between 1968 and 1980 before retiring to become a first-class umpire. Also took 237 wickets for Worcestershire in 164 one-day games.
Darren Lehmann: The Australia Test batsman made 8,871 runs at the prodigious average of 68.76 in 88 first-class matches for Yorkshire between 1997 and 2006, the last of his six seasons at Headingley. Also made 5,481 runs in 139 limited-over matches. Went on to become Australia’s head coach before resigning after the ill-fated South Africa series in 2018.
Jacques Rudolph: The South Africa Test batsman hit 5,429 first-class runs in his 68 matches for Yorkshire at an average of 52.20, including 18 centuries. Also weighed in with 3,800 runs in limited-overs cricket, in which he posted a further nine tons.
Kane Williamson: New Zealand’s captain spent the first of his four truncated periods at Headingley in 2013. Since then he has totalled 1,292 runs in 19 Championship matches, including 629 of them in nine games in the 2014 title triumph. Also compiled a further 279 runs in 13 List A games and 582 in 22 T20s.
Sachin Tendulkar: Yorkshire’s infamous old rule that any of their players had to be born within the county’s borders was finally abandoned in 1992 to allow a teenage Tendulkar to become the Tykes’ first overseas star. Even at 19, the future India cricketing superstar responded well, hitting 1,070 County Championship runs and a further 540 in one-day cricket.