Duanne Olivier in Bloemfontein. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Duanne Olivier in Bloemfontein. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Kolpak claimed another South African on Tuesday when Yorkshire revealed that Duanne Olivier has signed a three-year deal with the county.

Yorkshire said on their website that they have “beat off the attention of a number of other counties” to secure the fast bowler’s services.

They also trumped Cricket SA‚ who said Olivier has rejected the offer of a two-year contract.

The news will hit cricket-minded South Africans hard‚ particularly as Olivier’s form has been an important part of the Proteas’s bowling success this summer.

His 24 wickets at an average of 14.70‚ which included a 10-wicket-haul and three five-fors‚ made him the most successful bowler in the Test series against Pakistan in December and January.

That earned Olivier 41 wickets from his first eight Tests — a record bettered only by Vernon Philander and Peter Pollock in SA’s history — while Mike Procter claimed 41 in the only seven Tests he played.

In all‚ Olivier played 10 Tests‚ taking 48 wickets at 19.25‚ and two one-day internationals — both against Pakistan in January — in which he had three scalps at an economy rate of 6.52.

“I would be lying if I said this wasn’t a difficult decision to make‚” Olivier was quoted as saying on Yorkshire’s site.

“It’s giving up playing for my country with no guarantees of playing international cricket again. But … I needed to be true to myself. I’ve only got this one chance to see where my talent can take me and Yorkshire just felt right to me.”

On Instagram‚ Olivier said: “My decision might be difficult for some to understand but being a professional cricket player is a short-lived career and in order for me to make the most of all my opportunities‚ I had to consider all my options.”

That did not stop Ottis Gibson from voicing his unhappiness in a Cricket SA release: “We are naturally disappointed with Duanne’s decision to sign a Kolpak contract.

“He has been a key feature for us this summer and was without a doubt one of our standout performers. We held several meetings with him regarding his future with the Proteas throughout the summer and even offered him a two-year contract.

“To see him cut short a promising international career is disappointing. Ultimately‚ it was a decision we could not control despite our best efforts.”

Cricket SA CEO Thabang Moroe was on the same page: “We find it extremely disappointing that Duanne has taken this step after all the opportunities we have given him‚ particularly over the past season and going forward‚ to live his dream of being an international cricketer.

“He was upgraded to a national contract during the current season on the strength of his outstanding performances in our Test squad and we offered him a two-year contract which would have given him financial security through to the end of the 2020-21 season.

“He was not short of opportunity either as he played in all six Test matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka during the current summer and was also considered for white-ball selection.

'Bigger picture'

“If one looks at the bigger picture this is not good news for the global game either that a player who has just broken into the top 20 on the Test bowling rankings for the first time should opt effectively to bring down the curtain on his international career in favour of playing only in domestic leagues.”

Olivier‚ who leapt three places to 19th position in the rankings after the Sri Lanka series‚ was quoted as saying on the county’s site that the thought of moving his career to England had struck him while he was playing seven first-class matches as an overseas signing for Derbyshire in 2018‚ when he took 31 wickets at 21.48.

“I came over to the UK last year and thoroughly enjoyed my time playing county cricket‚” Olivier said. “I have since realised I could happily base myself there for the foreseeable future.

“I was originally looking to come back as an overseas player but when I got a long-term offer from Yorkshire as a Kolpak [player] I knew that signing for the club would be the best option for both myself and my family.”

The sad irony of Olivier’s decision is that he made his debut in January 2017 against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers as a replacement for Kyle Abbott, who had ended his own Test career by agreeing a Kolpak deal with Hampshire.