ASHTON-on-Mersey slumped to a 89-run defeat at promotion rivals Congleton, on a day where the home side rose far better to the challenges set by an unpredictable pitch in the Cheshire Cricket League Division One clash.

With Congleton winning the toss and choosing to bat on a sunny day, it was perhaps surprising to find the wicket giving help to the bowlers from the start.

Runs were hard to come by as the top-order batsmen struggled against the accurate Ashton opening duo of Craig Stow and Josh Knowles.

But the change bowling saw some loose deliveries punished by the home side, allowing the score to mount.

Ed Faulkner and James Marsh finally found the right line and length to trouble the batsmen, and as the pitch began to play tricks the Congleton middle-order fell away.

Andrew Roscow once again bowled well, helping Ashton to reduce the home side to 130-9.

But some lusty blows from the last-wicket pair saw Congleton scramble to 159 before the final wicket fell.

Faulkner was again Ashton’s main wicket-taker, finishing with 5-49.

In reply, Ashton were soon in trouble as the pitch continued to deteriorate.

With balls taking off or staying low, survival was difficult and with the Congleton bowlers offering fewer loose balls than the Ashton attack, run scoring was a great challenge.

Only Mike Roberts seemed to have the ability to face up to the attack, despite taking blows to the body as the ball leapt from a length.

Once he finally fell, gloving a fierce ball to the keeper, the rest of the Ashton batting fell away and they were all out for just 70.

It was disappointing that a match that promised a keen contest was defined by matters beyond the control of the players, but Congleton deserved their win as they exploited the difficult conditions far better than Ashton.

John Copeland (4-10) and John Higginbotham (4-24) reaped full reward for their efforts.

Ashton will be looking to recover when they welcome Lymm to the Beets in their next league match.

The battle of the second XIs also went Congleton’s way.

Ashton were 188 all out (Asim Khan 88, Ryan Booth 6-76), before Congleton reached 189-2 (Rhys Lewis 67).

The thirds recorded a comprehensive win against Bollington, despite illness reducing the team to 10 men.

Ashton made 229-4 (Graham Parker 119 not out) before Bollington finished on 119 all out (Bam Ravel 4-25).