DURHAM batsman Keaton Jennings has agreed a four-year deal with Lancashire after becoming the latest high-profile player to leave the club.

England star Jennings, who was dropped from the Test side this summer but still hopes to make his way into Wednesday's Ashes squad, cited his continued international ambitions for the "agonising" decision to jump ship.

Durham have already lost their Twenty20 captain Paul Coughlin to Nottinghamshire, with record wicket-taker Graham Onions also moving on at the conclusion of the campaign, while Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick both departed for Surrey last summer.

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Jennings said: "Despite being career-driven, the decision to move on has been agonisingly difficult for me. Everyone in the north has become, and will remain, family to me.

"But I am hugely excited about joining Lancashire and playing my cricket at Emirates Old Trafford. It's a fantastic opportunity for me to play Division One cricket at a Test Match ground for a Club, like Lancashire, with such a great history and tradition."

Jennings, Durham's 50-over skipper, added: "My heartfelt gratitude goes to Durham County for the opportunities, support and guidance in enabling me to follow my dream of playing cricket in England.

"My years at the county have been positive and inspirational and I leave with the happiest of memories and the closest of friends. I wish consolidation and success to DCCC."

The prospect of either is not helped by the steady exodus of talent, which followed last year's £3.8million bailout from the England and Wales Cricket Board, which came with automatic relegation to the second tier and severe points deductions across all formats.

Durham chairman Sir Ian Botham vented his frustration at rival teams and intermediaries 'unsettling' the club's players when Coughlin's departure was confirmed and said a formal transfer system was needed in cricket.

There has also been a debate about whether or not county directors of cricket should sit on the England selection panel, as Middlesex's Angus Fraser and Nottinghamshire's Mick Newell do. Nottinghamshire had reportedly shown in interest in Jennings but have yet to confirm their own first-division status for next year.

Botham, though, did not stoke any of those fires in wishing Jennings good luck on his Red Rose move.

"Keaton has been an important player for Durham, a natural leader and I have been hugely impressed by his professionalism and courtesy through what has been a very difficult decision for him," he said.

"I would like to take the opportunity to wish him well for the future."

Lancashire head coach Glen Chapple said: "I am very pleased Keaton has signed for Lancashire as I know there were other counties chasing his signature. He's exactly the type of character and player I feel will add strength and depth to our squad."

25 year-old Jennings made his England debut on the back of an outstanding season for Durham in all competitions in 2016. He was the leading run-scorer in the County Championship with 1,548 runs at an average of 64.5 with seven centuries, including a double hundred against Yorkshire.

Chapple added: "Keaton is a fantastic addition for the club and he will be an important part of the squad, in all formats of the game, over the coming years."