JOSH Gent says Saturday’s convincing Peter Stafford Trophy win against Astley Bridge proves his side are in good shape for 2019.

Chasing 155 on their home patch at Victory Road, last year’s Association champions won the Bolton League’s opening fixture of the summer by nine wickets with 18 overs remaining against a Bridge side who challenged them for promotion but missed out.

The visitors elected to bat and were bowled out for 154 inside 38 of their 40 overs, with medium pacer Josh Hill taking the new ball and returning 3-28 from eight.

Captain Gent had four key players missing – fast bowler Curtis Anderton, new Pakistani professional Awais Zia, Adil Nisar and opening batsman Harvey Wilson.

In reply, Anthony Hilton posted an unbeaten 55 and shared in partnerships of 66 for the first wicket with Dane Hargreaves (30) and an unbroken 90 for the second with returning wicketkeeper batsman, Jake Wilde, 39 not out.

Gent said: “A nine-wicket win, you can’t ask for any more.

“Beating a rival from last year so convincingly with four lads missing, it shows where we’re at.

“I still see Bridge as one of the better sides in the second division, and I think they’ll be up there again. So this win shows we’re progressing.

“Curtis wasn’t playing, the pro’s dad died and he is arriving a week late, Adil, our pro last year and playing as an amateur now, is still away, and Harvey is injured.

“Suleman Khan from Lightcliffe in Bradford sub pro’d. He took two wickets in his eight overs and didn’t bat.

“You always want to see your pro bat, but I said afterwards, ‘In many ways, I’m pleased the pro hasn’t batted because it’s our own lads who’ve chased them down’.

“Curtis and Adil got the bulk of our wickets last year, maybe 80 per cent. But those two didn’t play and we’ve bowled a side out.

“The lads who’ve been part-time bowlers stepped up brilliantly.

“We were fantastic with the ball and in the field.”

While Hilton top-scored with the bat, arguably the most encouraging performance came from Wilde, a league title winner with Little Lever in 2013 but who hasn’t played much cricket since.

Gent said: “Jake will only get better. The plan is for him to keep wicket most of the season. Our other keeper Dane Hargreaves will share it with him when needed.

“Things are looking good.”

New pro Zia, aged 32, played five T20 internationals for Pakistan in 2012, four against England.

“He’s a proper player,” said Gent, who is in typically confident mood as he looks ahead to next month’s Premier Division league programme starting.

“Realistically, you wouldn’t back Little Lever to win the league. But being a captain you’ve got to say, ‘Yeah, I’ll back us’.

“To me, there’s no point playing if you’re not aiming to win every game.

“We’re not going to be favourites for the league, but that’s fine.

“We were nowhere near favourites when we won it in 2013. The year before last, we finished near the bottom, so we wouldn’t have been fancied for promotion. But we walked it.

“It’s a different league and a higher standard, but we’ve progressed.”