CHURCH have agreed terms with Sri Lankan big hitter Ruvin Peiris for next summer.
The Lancashire League side have moved quickly to snap up the star after hearing Australian Greg Mail was unable to return to the club next summer.
The 33-year-old is an all-rounder and has spent five seasons in the Central Lancashire League with Middleton. The one-time Sri Lanka A player has also sub-pro-ed at Todmor-den and Leyland in the Northern League.
"He is a class act. He is an experienced, high class bat who knows all about the leagues and is enthusiastic to come here," said Church's league representative Jack Houldsworth.
Peiris, the first Sri Lankan pro at Blackburn Road, is a left handed opening batsman and a left arm orthodox slow bowler. He didn't bowl so much in the Central Lancs League but is looking forward to taking a few wickets in the Lancashire League.
"He is a genuine all-rounder, his batting speaks for itself and he is keen to bowl," said Houldsworth.
Peiris, who plays for Moors Sports Club in Colombo, has also spent two years in the Durham League. But it was at Middleton where he made his impact. They were third from bottom when he joined the club in 1999 but he helped them win the championship and to victory in the Wood Cup. And his season's best is 1577 runs in league and cup - averaging 83.
"We knew about him because we played against him in the Inter-League Trophy," said Houldsworth. "He is someone we have been impressed with and have kept an interest in."
Peiris is also a level 2 ECB qualified coach.
"In his seven years in English cricket he has scored more than 8000 runs and was the leading run scorer in the Sri Lankan domestic league in 2001/2002 - that says a lot about him," added Houldsworth.
Middleton released Peiris after he damaged his cruciate ligaments last June and was forced home early. However, he has assured Church he will be playing first class cricket at home by December and expects to make a full recovery from his injury.
"It is a slight risk but he is training already and thinks he will be fine," said the Church representative.
Gordon Haworth, the man who initially signed Peiris for Middleton and is their cricket chairman, was full of praise for the Sri Lankan.
"We have made him a life member of the club - that is virtually unheard of for a professional. He is respectful, a true gentleman. He stands out as a professional. The way he coaches the kids is unbelievable and he gives the same to the team. He is a fantastic pro. Even when he was injured in June he had already got over 800 runs for us and could have gone on to make over 2000 last summer.
"He used to ring me upset on Sunday if the team lost on Saturday saying he couldn't sleep. That is the kind of player he is. He is phenomenal."
Middleton chairman John Burton was disappointed that Peiris wouldn't carry on at Middleton where he has boosted the club and the crowds.
"We love Ruvin to bits and feel he has done a tremendous job for us in both matches and coaching. But because of the uncertainly in regard to his injury, we had to speed things up and sign someone else."
This was Sajith Fernando who sub-pro-ed in Peiris' absence.