Church have signed Pakistani all-rounder Usman Tariq as their new professional after Ashar Zaidi earned a two-year deal with Sussex.
Zaidi had committed to Church for 2014 after a stunning season with Lancashire League rivals Accrington this year.
While the 32-year-old all-rounder was leading Accrington to the league title, breaking a 54-year-old club record by scoring 1,446 runs in a season, he wrote to each County Championship side asking for a trial.
Sussex were the first to respond, and after Zaidi impressed during their last two County Championship games, Sussex were keen to offer the former Pakistan A player a permanent deal.
Zaidi had already signed for Church so the two parties had to negotiate – but the deal has now been done after Church managed to find a replacement while Sussex agreed to pay some compensation.
Now a British citizen, Zaidi made his first-class debut in 1999 and before his trial, his last first-class match was for Islamabad in 2009.
He spent three years as Accrington’s paid man and since the end of the English season he’s been playing in Bangladesh’s Dhaka Premier League.
“It is an honour to sign for Sussex,” he said.
“This is a really big achievement for me, especially after a few years’ break from the pro game.
“I’m really grateful for the chance that they have given me.
Sussex captain Ed Joyce added: “Ash fitted into the squad really well and impressed everyone with his canny left-arm spin and attractive strokeplay.”
Although Church were disappointed to lose Zaidi’s services, they were not going to stand in his way.
“We would like to wish Ashar all the best for his time with Sussex CCC,” said club secretary Andrew Bentley.
“We’d also like to thank Sussex for their kind donation to the club, which will be used to develop our junior section.”
With most of the top professionals having already been snapped up for next season, Church were concerned about the calibre of players available.
However, in Usman Tariq they have managed to secure someone with plenty of experience and an impressive record.
A left-hand top-order batsman and a right-arm off-spinner, Tariq was just 13 when he made his List-A debut.
He’s gone on to score over 10,000 runs in first-class and List A matches, while taking 78 wickets at an average of 30 in first-class games.
He’s now an established league pro, having been paid man at Greenmount, Radcliffe and Walkden in the last eight seasons, scoring 9,489 runs at an average of 56 while taking 310 wickets at an average of 18.
During those eight seasons he passed the 1,000-run mark on six occasions, hitting 1,639 runs for Greenmount in 2006 and 1,476 for Walkden in 2010.