Southport set for First Division title
Friday 29th August 2003

Southport and Birkdale's five wicket win against St Helens Recs on Monday guaranteed their promotion, but if they beat second placed Sefton Park on Saturday, the First Division title will go to Trafalgar Road.

Southport and Birkdale were relegated after the 2000 season when their current captain, Malcolm Swift, was playing at Hightown.

Swift said: "We have a different side now. Over the last three years, we have blooded players such as Craig Prince and their experience over that time has benefitted us this season. Craig is our leading scorer with 594 runs.

"It hasn't been a one man show. The batting responsibilities have been shared. Apart from Craig, Graham Standring has 433 runs, Nilesh Kulkarni 411, Jason Halsall 327 runs, lan Cropper 295 and I've got 364. Everybody has chipped in when required."

Swift went on to compliment some of his players: "Nilesh Kulkarni has been awesome, he's the best pro that I have played with. Having Mike Smethurst has been a massive bonus as has getting Ian Cropper from Hightown. His experience gained from many years in the Competition has helped me this season, my first as captain."

He went on: "The bulk of the wickets have been shared between Nilesh (69), Mike Smethurst (40) and myself (68). We have managed to bowl sides out, which is the key in the First Division, and gained the ability to win the tight game, unlike last year. On Monday, Recs gave us only 36 overs to get 151 which we did with 7 balls to spare. We might have lost that last year.

"We have won 17 games and only lost 1. That was against Fleetwood Hesketh back in May. We should have won, chasing 183 they bowled us out for 100 and one of our former players, Abey Kuruvilla took 5-23."

Swift continued: "Sefton and Fleetwood Hesketh are the best two sides we've played. It has been a tight league this season. Hightown and Colwyn Bay have done well as have Haydock after getting Jimmy Adams.

"I'm looking forward to a tense game on Saturday against Sefton Park. We are playing at home and know that if we win, we'll be champions and we will be going out to win.

"Paul Horton has done a good job this season for Sefton. He's the youngest captain in the league and an exceptional bat (920 runs so far this season). 'Old man' Wade keeps chipping in with his wickets and they have two good spinners in Robbie Houghton and Howie Parker. They also have a good, young opening bowler in Chris Whelan. It'll be a hard game on Saturday."