Fraser's regret as Billy departs

MIDDLESEX batsman Billy Godleman has stunned the county s hierarchy after refusing a contract offer to stay at Lord's and joining rivals Essex instead. The 20-year-old former Islington Green School pupil...

MIDDLESEX batsman Billy Godleman has stunned the county's hierarchy after refusing a contract offer to stay at Lord's and joining rivals Essex instead.

The 20-year-old former Islington Green School pupil was released on loan last week for the rest of the season to Essex, and was believed to have been unhappy at Lord's having lost his first-team place in July.

But the Barnsbury-based batsman has now plumped for a permanent move and signed a three-year deal with the Chelmsford club.

"I am looking forward to my time with Essex," Godleman said earlier this week.

"I am keen to get into the side and make some good contributions with the bat and I hope to contribute to winning some games of cricket in all formats.

"I know most of the players from my time with Middlesex and have been made to feel very welcome by everyone. One of my good friends in the game is Tom Westley, it will be good to link up with him."

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"I spent Sunday watching the game against Worcestershire at Colchester, the vibes in the dressing room are good, although it was obviously a disappointing ending."

Angus Fraser, Middlesex CCC's managing director of cricket could not hide his disappointment at the departure of a player who has been at the club since his early teens and is still thought of as a potential England player despite his loss of form this season.

"We offered Billy a two-year extension to his current contract at the start of the season and informed him of our desire to keep him at Middlesex. But having received approaches from other counties Billy decided against signing," said Fraser this week.

"We are sorry to lose a player in which we have invested much, but the emergence of other young batsmen this year has pushed him down our pecking order. We wish him well with his future career, except in games against Middlesex!"

That was a light-hearted end from Fraser to what looks to have been another regrettable departure for the county, just a year after captain Ed Joyce left for Sussex and former skipper Ed Smith quit the game.

With coach Toby Radford also stepping down this season, it seems that Godleman no longer saw Lord's as the right place to develop a career that seemed destined for the top until his patchy form this summer.

After leaving Islington Green in June 2005, Godleman burst onto the scene with 69 on his first class debut against Cambridge University that summer, and a year later was awarded a professional contract at Lord's, aged just 17.

He started his county career with a century on debut against Somerset in 2006 and the future looked glittering for the left-handed opener who was by now a regular with England Under-19s, side for whom he played in the World Cup in Malaysia in 2008.

However, only one more century has followed in 36 first-class games and this season he averaged just 17 in his five championship matches before losing his place to Sam Robson, the Australian-born teenager.

Godleman will go straight into the Essex squad for this week's game against Leicestershire.