Umesh is staying in 2015

Happy at Scott Street: Umesh Karunaratne
Happy at Scott Street: Umesh Karunaratne

Central Lancashire League champions Walsden have moved quickly to sign Umesh Karunaratne for a second season.

The Sri Lankan right-hand batsman and right-arm off spinner has been in excellent form in recent weeks, taking seven for 57 and hitting 45 in the league defeat at Clifton the weekend before last.

With little more than half of the league programme completed, he already has more than 50 wickets and between 350 and 400 runs.

Walsden spokesman Kenny Gale said the club had been in talks with the 25-year-old from Jayawardenepura for two or three weeks.

They were pleased to agree a deal before the August 1 deadline, after which other Central Lancashire League clubs could have approached Karunaratne for 2015.

Gale said that North Yorkshire and South Durham League club Saltburn, where Karunaratne played in 2013, were rumoured to want him back.

Gale added: “Umesh is a big asset to the club.

“He has really turned it on with the ball and while we would have liked a few more runs, he does look as if he can score plenty when he gets in.”

Karunaratne, who lodges with scorer Mick Watson near the ground, helps Matthew Dawson with junior coaching on Monday evenings and will be running his own summer school for children in August.

“Umesh fits in well with the lads and everyone else around the club,” added Gale.

Walsden have a double header in the league this weekend with a visit from Heywood on Saturday and a trip to Royton on Sunday.

James Rawlinson’s side have beaten both those opponents already this year but will be taking nothing for granted in their pursuit of Norden.

Bobby Cross and Danny Pawson are danger men for Heywood, who have recruited a new professional in Australia-born wicketkeeper/batsman Tom Cullen.

Royton lost by seven wickets to Walsden a month ago but have since beaten Werneth and Heywood.