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Crilly gets kitted out for success at Formby
Paul Edwards - Friday 11th May 2007

When Steve Dutton became Formby's third captain in less than a year he decided that the club needed a little stability. So he signed a leg spinner with no kit.

Dutton's decision seemed rather more logical when he disclosed than the cricketer in question was the lavishly talented Liam Crilly, and, come September, the recruitment of the ex Maghull all rounder may seem like the shrewdest close season recruitment in the Liverpool Competition.

Crilly's 740 runs and 48 wickets for the Old Hall Field side earned him the Division One Player of the Year award in 2005, but his new skipper encountered few difficulties in persuading him to make the switch.

"I've known Liam for 15 years and I think he'd come to the end of the road at Maghull," said Dutton. "We offered to buy him some equipment and I think that helped him to agree to sign on!"

Five matches into the 2007 season, club and player seem well suited. Crilly scored a half century and took 4 for 58 in the draw against a much strengthened Orrell Red Triangle outfit, and claimed 3-4 as Dutton's team defeated Rainhill by nine wickets on Bank Holiday Monday.

So despite the first month of the campaign throwing up a trio of tough opponents – Ainsdale, Northop Hall and Orrell Red Triangle – Formby go into tomorrow's game at St Helens handily placed in fifth position in the First Division.

But Dutton’s spring recruitment drive was not wholly confined to mercurial leggies. The Cricket Path skipper also offered the former Maghull player, James Francis, an opportunity to keep wicket on a regular basis, and a hectic spring fortnight was completed when the club was told that Stephen O'Keefe would be its New South Wales Scholarship player in 2007.

The Australian chipped in with runs and wickets in Formby's eight wicket defeat of Ainsdale three weeks ago and blasted a century in his side's vain pursuit of 267 to beat Wavertree last Saturday. The skipper is understandably impressed.

"Stephen’s a class act, absolute mustard on and off the field," he enthused. "He's an opening batsman and a left arm spinner, and his month in New Zealand prior to coming to England probably helped his preparation, but he does look like a first grade cricketer."

Jonathan Taylor's nine wickets in the first two matches also earned him plaudits from Dutton who nevertheless remains thankful that he has plenty of nous to call on if necessary.

"Graeme Morris's decision to play another year for us is a major boost," he said. "I batted him at seven against Ainsdale, so he never got to the wicket, but I know I'll be grateful for ability, experience and support before the season's over."

Nor has Dutton set his side over ambitious goals for this season. "Last year was tough for Formby, so I think it's important that we simply establish ourselves and become difficult to play against," he said, although given Crilly's threat to introduce a ghetto blaster and break dancing into the changing room, fixtures against Dutton's team may soon become colourful events on the local cricket circuit.

Formby's opponents over the first Bank Holiday weekend, Rainhill and Wavertree, have both been embroiled in registration problems.

The Recreation Ground side admitted their clerical error and accepted their punishment after fielding a player who had not completed the necessary forms in time for the opening game of the season, but Wavertree have now taken legal advice following the points deduction and fine they received for playing Narender Negi, who was registered 28 hours after the deadline, in the draw against Sefton Park.

(first appeared in the Liverpool Daily Post)