Durham are keeping tabs on Australian batsman Nick Hobson and ex-Durham University captain Cameron Steel as they seek a replacement for departing opener Mark Stoneman.
Hobson, who played in the North East Premier League for Newcastle this summer, recently made three centuries for Durham seconds but is now back home.
“He’s hoping to play for Western Australia, but he wants to come back to the North East next summer and we have told him we will stay in touch,” said coach Jon Lewis.
Hobson has an English qualification through a parent and Steel, who was also raised in Australia, has a residential qualification after finishing his schooling at Millfield in Somerset.
He first impressed for the university against Durham when making 68 in 2014. He has now finished his studies and has been released by Middlesex after playing for their seconds for the last three years.
Several players have already been released and Lewis says that the squad would be “more streamlined” next year.
“The club’s financial position has been over-documented,” he said. “Most clubs are having to watch every penny and we have to be accountable for everything we spend.
“A leaner squad doesn’t necessarily mean it will be weaker. Everybody will be competing for a first team place, which is healthy, and we are confident that the players we are producing through the academy are among the best.”
Durham have reached the Second XI Championship final and host Middlesex at the Emirates Riverside, starting on Tuesday, the same day as the first team begin against Yorkshire at Headingley.
Gordon Muchall is unlikely to be available as he is starting his new job at Durham’s Bow School, while Calum MacLeod is being released and will not be pressed into service.
Left-arm spinner Gurman Randhawa, who was awarded a development contract for this season, has also been released and has been playing for Derbyshire seconds.
Durham’s search for a left-arm seamer to replace Jamie Harrison has taken in ex-Middlesex player Gurjit Sandhu and has moved on to Sam Grant.
He has played for Sussex and Somerset seconds and has spent three years at Loughborough University. He played in Durham’s last second-team match, but will miss the final because he is in Sri Lanka with Loughborough.