BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
RISING Zimbabwe cricket star Nick Welch has become the latest local cricket prodigy to secure a lucrative contract in the highly competitive English County Championship after signing a two-year contract with Leicestershire County Cricket Club last week.
Leicestershire confirmed Welch’s acquisition in a statement on their official website on Thursday. The deal will see the 22-year-old former Mash Eagles and Harare Country Club young star remain at Grace Road until at least the end of the 2022 season.
“Leicestershire County Cricket Club are delighted to announce the signing of Nick Welch in a deal that will keep him at Leicestershire until at least the end of the 2022 season. The 22-year-old is no stranger to Leicestershire CCC as he donned the Leicestershire Fox jersey numerous times last season for the Second XI, as well as appearing against Leicestershire for Loughborough MCC University,” the club said.
Leicestershire, who are one of 18 first-class county clubs within the domestic cricket structure of England and Wales, compete in the second division of the County Championship and in the north group of the Royal London One-Day Cup.
They are looking to build a strong squad after recently finishing bottom of the County Championship for the sixth time since the introduction of two divisions.
Their best showing in recent years has been in the Twenty20 Cup with the Foxes winning the trophy three times in eight years (2004, 2006 and 2011) and they hope Welch and some of their recent recruits will play an important role in bringing back the club’s glory days.
The club said it was impressed with the loads of experience Welch had gained over the last few years while rising through the ranks at Leicestershire and Surrey’s second teams as well as Loughborough MCC University.
The right-handed batsman appeared for Surrey Second XI in 2018 where he posted some impressive scores including a high score of 175* as well as a 149.
In 2018, he appeared in 28 matches for Surrey Second XI claiming 941 runs at an average of 26.88.
The following year he appeared in 16 matches for Surrey Second XI posting 497 runs, with a high score of 90 and an average of 27.61. In the same year, 2019, Welch also played for Leicestershire Second XI where he certainly put his name on the map with some incredible performances which saw him post 404 runs in six matches, including a high score of 119 and an average of 80.80.
Welch also has some first-class appearances to his name for Loughborough MCCU where he has played five innings posting 163 runs in total, a high score of 79 and an average of 32.60.
Welch becomes the third Zimbabwean cricketer currently playing on the county scene together with Blessing Muzarabani (Northamptonshire) and Eddie Byrom (Surrey).
A product of St John’s College in Harare, Welch was part of the Country Club side which won Zimbabwe Cricket National League title in 2014.
He played in the same national age group teams with fellow
England-based top-order batsman Byrom, Ireland-based Gary King and the duo of Ryan Murray and Shaun Matigimu, who are both based in South Africa.
Byrom has been the most successful from the group and after starring for Surrey over the last couple of seasons he recently pledged his international allegiance to England instead of Zimbabwe.
However, it’s not clear yet if Welch will follow the same route as Byrom or decide to play for Zimbabwe.
His sister Samantha though is a former Zimbabwe junior swimming champion, who has in the past cracked several national records previously held by retired swimming icon and current Sports minister Kirsty Coventry.