The opening match of the shortened 2020 cricket season saw Ashton on Mersey fall short against near neighbours Hale Barns at The Beets.

In a match played in fine spirit and with new social distancing protocols in place, Hale won the toss and opted to make first use of a good batting track.

Opening pair Sam Smith and Joe Cooper started confidently against the Ashton bowling attack, punishing anything loose.

After posting a century partnership, the excellent Cooper fell for a fine 56. Spinner Ed Faulkner bowled a miserly spell to help drag the game back for Ashton and the change bowling stuck to the task to ensure the visitors could not accelerate their innings in the way they wished.

Smith eventually went for a well-crafted 85, one of James Marshall’s four wickets for Ashton. The Hale Barns total of 212 was about par on the day.

In reply the Ashton innings got off to a stuttering start with three wickets falling cheaply.

The loss of Faulkner to a superb one handed caught and bowled by Ben Hicks and the run out of Tom Scott after a mix-up between the batsmen deprived Ashton of two of their key run scorers.

But James Lines and Mark Weighill dug in to put on a 50 partnership to drag Ashton back into the game. When they went Marshall and Mike Roberts continued the counterattack. With a mixture of sensible accumulation and dispatching of the bad ball, the pair kept the home team in the chase.

But after recording his half century Marshall fell, caught on the edge of the longest boundary for 52.

Ashton continued to press but wickets fell at regular intervals, and they eventually came up short by 33 runs.

Copper finished with 3-49 to lead the bowling figures.

The clash of the 2nd XIs saw a dramatic conclusion to the game at Brooks Drive.

Ashton bowled out Hale Barns for 96 and looked to be cruising to victory at 88-5. But a massive collapse saw the last five Ashton wickets fall for just five runs, as they were bowled out for 93.