DIRECTOR of cricket Giles White described as “the best course of action” the mutual decision for Kyle Abbott not to feature for Hampshire during the 2020 campaign.

The Ageas Bowl side confirmed the South African seamer would not be able to play in England due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has caused significant difficulties with the availability of players who do not permanently reside in the UK, resulting in a significant reduction in Abbott’s availability this summer.

The right-arm paceman, who put pen-to-paper on a new three-year deal last winter, will instead continue to work on his game in South Africa before returning to the Ageas Bowl in 2021 where he will be registered as one of Hampshire’s designated overseas players.

White said: “The window for Kyle’s return to the UK has narrowed significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficulties with visa delays and quarantine restrictions that have followed subsequently.

“We’ve had excellent dialogue with Kyle throughout this period, and with everything considered, we all felt the best course of action was for him to remain in South Africa in readiness for the 2021 season.”

Abbott re-joined Hampshire ahead of the 2017 season after featuring as an overseas player in 2014.

The 33-year-old has proved to be integral to Hampshire’s success during his time with the club, claiming 293 wickets at an average of just 21.43 across all formats.

The right-armer’s consistency in that time has been remarkable, particularly in red-ball cricket, where he has claimed 183 first-class wickets at just 18.78 apiece including a return of more than 50 wickets in each of the past three County Championship campaigns.

An incredible performance against Somerset in the final home County Championship fixture of last season, which saw Abbott claim a career-best 9-40 in the first-innings as well as career-best match figures of 17-86, ensured he concluded the competition with a career-high 72 scalps.

Alongside his red-ball success, Abbott has also been a prominent feature of Hampshire’s white-ball attack across the last three seasons.

His 17 wickets in the 2017 edition of the T20 Blast helped secure a seventh finals day appearance in eight years, whilst the paceman topped the club’s wicket-taker list in last year’s tournament, taking 20 scalps at an average of 17.80.

Although an ankle injury prevented him from playing a part in Hampshire’s 2018 Royal London One-Day Cup triumph, Abbott was vital to sealing a second successive final appearance at Lord’s in 2019 - his 20 wickets was the fourth highest return of any player in the competition.