YORKSHIRE have moved to temporarily relieve their ongoing spin bowling headache by signing the South African left-armer Keshav Maharaj.
Maharaj, 29, will play in the next three County Championship games, starting with Sunday’s fixture against Surrey at Scarborough.
Maharaj will also play against Essex at Chelmsford (July 7-10) and against Somerset at Emerald Headingley (July 13-16).
The move comes after Yorkshire failed in their efforts to re-sign the Somerset off-spinner Dom Bess on loan.
Bess took seven wickets and scored 156 runs in four Championship appearances during a one-month loan that finished a fortnight ago.
Somerset wanted him back to boost their title hopes only to leave him out of their match this week against Essex at Chelmsford.
Yorkshire want to sign Bess permanently and believe that he could become increasingly frustrated by his lack of opportunities at Somerset, where he is behind Jack Leach in the spin bowling pecking order.
It would be no surprise to see the 21-year-old sign permanently for the White Rose at some point, although he has 18 months left on his contract at Taunton.
Going forward, Yorkshire have other spin bowling options on their present staff.
James Logan, a 21-year-old Wakefield-born left-arm spinner, effectively replaced Bess for last week’s Championship match against Warwickshire at York, taking 4-22 in the second innings on only his second Championship appearance.
Logan also contributed an unbeaten 20 in the first innings from the No 10 position in an innings that lasted almost two hours.
Yorkshire also have Josh Poysden, a 27-year-old leg-spinner who signed on a three-year deal from Warwickshire last August, who has yet to play in the Championship this year.
In addition, they have Karl Carver, a 23-year-old left-arm spinner who has not played a first-team game for over a year, while among the prospects coming through is Jack Shutt, a 22-year-old off-spinner yet to make his first-team debut.
Yorkshire are without their first-choice spinner Adil Rashid due to World Cup duty.
It is unclear whether Rashid – who last year quit red-ball cricket only to reverse his decision so that he could play Test cricket – wants to play Championship cricket again (he has subsequently lost his Test place).
Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire first team coach, expressed the desire last month that the club go through the season without an overseas player. He challenged his squad to prevent any temptation to recruit from abroad only for the club to decide that is now the best bet.
Gale, who has played down any suggestion that his fourth-placed side are title contenders, did hint after the match at York that the club “might bring someone in from the outside”, raising the prospect of an overseas spinner.
However, he praised Logan’s four-wicket performance and has earmarked the youngster as one for the future.
“He’s nowhere near the finished article, but there’s definitely something to work with,” he said.
As with their recruitment of Bess, Yorkshire have one eye on the runs that Maharaj could potentially provide with the bat. He has two first-class hundreds to his name along with 427 wickets at 27.44, including 94 in 25 Test appearances – the last of those in February.
Martyn Moxon, the Yorkshire director of cricket, said: “The feeling is that we’re trying to work out the balance of the team with a red-ball spinner.
“Dom Bess has done well for us, coming in to bat at No 8 in the County Championship team.
“So, with that in mind, Keshav is someone who was available, an international spinner, and it was felt that in the short-term it would be advantageous to bring him in for the few games that he’s got set aside.
“He’s an excellent spin bowler who will hopefully do well for us.”
Yorkshire were impressed with Maharaj when he played against them for Lancashire in the Championship at Headingley last season. He took 3-52 from 32 overs in the second innings after contributing 38 in the Lancashire first innings.
Maharaj, who took 17 wickets in three Championship appearances for the Red Rose, including 7-37 in a tie against Somerset at Taunton, said: “I got the opportunity to play for Lancashire against Yorkshire and developed a bit of a relationship with a few of the (Yorkshire) guys.
“I’m very happy and privileged to be coming back (to Yorkshire).
“Having played at Headingley, it was a great challenge and one that I will enjoy during my time with the club.
“Going forwards, I would like to be pivotal in winning some of the games during the three I’ve been signed on for and helping Yorkshire step up a little bit in the table.”