LANCASHIRE Lightning have signed New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill for the beginning of their defence of the NatWest T20 Blast title.

Guptill will turn out for the Lightning in their first six games of the competition and will arrive at Old Trafford following his commitments with the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.

The 29-year-old was the first New Zealand player to hit a double century in a one-day international and is the holder of the highest score in a World Cup after hitting an unbeaten 237 in the quarter-final victory over the West Indies last year.

Lancashire head coach Ashley Giles said: "Martin is a formidable batsman, particularly in white-ball cricket, and is currently ranked as the world's third best batsman in T20 cricket.

"His arrival will be slightly delayed by his commitments in the IPL, but having someone of quality coming in to join our squad will be great for everyone here.

"He's got the ability to take games away from the opposition very quickly once he gets going and I'm sure our fans will really enjoy watching him play.

"We're hoping to have Joss (Buttler) available for the majority of our games, so having both of them - someone at the top of the order with Guptill's ability and Joss in the middle - gives us a fantastic boost."

Auckland-born Guptill, who has previously played in England for Derbyshire, said: "I am delighted to be heading back to England for another stint of county cricket, particularly for a club with such a rich history as Lancashire.

"I hope I can make a real impact and help with their pursuit for another trophy in white-ball cricket."

Lancashire Lightning begin the defence of their T20 Blast title with three home matches.

They are at home to Derbyshire Falcons on Saturday, May 21, before welcoming Durham Jets on Friday, May 27.

The blockbuster Roses clash follows a week later, with Yorkshire Vikings arriving at Old Trafford on Friday June 3.