STAND made the perfect start to life in the Greater Manchester Cricket League’s Premier Division as they beat perennial trophy challengers Clifton on Saturday, leaving delighted new captain Alex Bierne in reflective mood.

Division One B champions last year, the Hamilton Road side restricted their hosts, captained by former Lancashire County Championship winner Gareth Cross, to 179-5 from 50 overs before knocking off the target with nine wickets and 20.4 overs to spare.

“Coming up to this division, not many would have fancied us,” said Bierne, who has replaced Stuart Catterall for 2019, having been at Stand for 22 years and come through their juniors.

“Clifton away is quite a daunting introduction.

“But the one thing this team has built over the last three years is a winning mentality. We’ve won two divisions out of the last three.

“We could have quite easily walked off with a lack of momentum because 180 all out should have been 140. But the way we chased was first class.

“In terms of a win, it’s up there with anything I’ve been involved in at Stand.”

After electing to bat, Clifton professional Cross opened the batting and top-scored with 65, while another former Red Rose player, Steven Cheetham, finished 46 not out.

For Stand, off-spinner Danish Ateeq (0-28 from 10 overs) took the new ball and was miserly.

But he was the only one of the five-man attack not to strike.

Sub professional Brett Pelser from Horwich, standing in for Sri Lankan Nadeera Nawela, claimed one wicket, while New Zealand off-spinning overseas amateur Jamal Sukhon returned 2-64 from 14 overs.

“Everybody contributed,” said

Bierne. “The control we displayed was phenomenal, and we restricted the boundaries.

“They got away a bit at the end, but that can happen. Ideally, we’d have bowled them out for 140.

“The wicket got better. They’ve recently replaced their square. The track was brand new, so there was a bit of uncertainty over how it was going to play. A few kept low and you had to work hard, but the outfield was lightning.

“We concentrated on trying to limit the boundaries as opposed to taking wickets. We tried to force mistakes that way.”

In reply, openers Jack Delaney (27) and James Deeley shared 77 for the first wicket. Deeley and Pelser, 69 not out and 53 not out respectively, then wrapped up the win with an unbroken 103 partnership in 15 overs.

“Jack is from Perth originally, but he’s moved to Manchester from York. He’s a very handy signing,” added Bierne.

“James goes to University up here with one of our other lads. He’s from a long way down south and drove home last summer to play. But he didn’t want to do that again.

“His knock was faultless against a very good attack.

“The benefit with the young lads we’ve brought in is the improvement in the field.

“If we can consolidate our position in this division, we’ll be happy.

“Four out of 12 are relegated, which is tough. We want to compete while promoting our own lads and show the division what we’re about.

“We’re investing in facilities at the ground, and the club is on the up.”