Hampshire target Essex captain Foster

Hampshire have launched an audacious attempt to sign the Essex captain James Foster.

It is understood that Foster, who is out of contract at the end of this season, has said he would be interested in talking to Hampshire and will be offered the role of captain at the Rose Bowl. It is believed that Foster has been offered a large increase upon his Essex salary.

"Hampshire have asked for permission to speak to James," Essex coach Paul Grayson said. "We told them there's no point waiting the normal 28 days; if they want to speak, they may as well speak. We don't want to lose him. We've offered him a three-year contract that would make him the best-paid player at Essex. I hope he'll be loyal to us. But sometimes these big clubs come along with a pot of gold and it can turn a player's head.

"We want him to stay," added Grayson. "We consider him, after Matt Prior, as the best wicketkeeper batsman in the country and we want him to finish his career at Essex. But we have two very promising young wicketkeeper batsmen in Adam Wheater and Ben Foakes. In that we're fortunate."

The attraction of Foster to Hampshire is obvious. The 31-year-old has been hailed by Jack Russell as the best keeper in the world and has a first-class batting average of 36. He is also unlikely to be required by England. It would be a controversial move though as he is midway through a benefit year.