DURHAM JETS coach Jon Lewis has hailed the “world class” calibre of Imran Tahir after the South Africa spinner penned a deal to join the club for their Vitality T20 Blast campaign, which begins with a trip to Headingley to take on Yorkshire Vikings this afternoon.

Durham announced the signing of the 39-year-old last week as their second overseas player for the competition. Tahir will now play for his seventh county in England to go along with his vast experience at international level for South Africa, while he spent time earlier this year with Indian Premier League winners Chennai Super Kings.

Lewis said: “He’s gone full circle because he played for our second team about a decade and a half ago. We’re very pleased with the signing of Imran, he’s a great T20 bowler – one of the best in the world.

“He obviously knows English conditions very well. He’s played for many counties and he’s a world-class performer, to have him is a real asset. It’s exciting for us to start the competition with an overseas signing of that calibre.

“He loves his cricket, he still loves playing. He’s obviously got a few years on his side now. He’s still a great performer, and taking wickets and winning games is still what excites him. So it’s really good for us and a lift for everyone here.”

Durham finished bottom of the North Group last season, winning only three of their 14 matches. Lewis believes that adding a spinning threat with the white ball could play a vital role in improving his side’s fortunes in the competition this time around.

He added: “I think wrist spin has been successful in T20. There’s going to be quite a few playing this year, particularly overseas wrist spinners. It’s important to have a wicket-taker – to have either express pace or a mystery spin.

“It’s important in all forms of white-ball cricket now because if you don’t take wickets people are just lining you up and hitting you out of the park. You need to be able to take wickets and get new batsmen in at the crease because that gives you a chance and he’s a wicket-taker.”

Paul Collingwood’s form in the Blast last season was a highlight for Durham as he notched his maiden T20 century, albeit in a losing effort against Worcestershire.

This term, the 42-year-old has struggled for form in both the County Championship and Royal London One-Day Cup, where he opened before missing the latter stages of the group stage due to injury.

However, Lewis is optimistic that moving up the order to number three could allow him to find his touch in the middle for the second half of the season.

He said: “Colly battled with the rhythm a little bit at number three. Then he had the innings at Worcester where he peeled off a hundred. He felt like then he was working out how to do it.

“There’s an option for us to continue with that. I think that anyone that has scored a hundred for Durham in T20 is entitled to think that they might have a chance to play in that role again because we haven’t had too many.

“Colly actually said in previous years that the RL50s have been the kick-starter to his season. The white ball obviously does a little bit less, while one-day pitches around the country are generally excellent – they’re pretty flat. With all that it could be quite a good opportunity for him.”

Ben Stokes is available for Durham’s opener against Yorkshire, with the ECB having given him permission to play ahead of his return to England duty. Tom Latham will captain Durham in the T20 format, having previously deputised for Kane Williamson as skipper of New Zealand.