Dimi Mascarenhas paid tribute to Hampshire’s rookie opening partnership after they almost set the foundations for a memorable Yorkshire Bank 40 success over Lancashire.
Shorn of the talents of Michael Carberry and James Vince, who were on duty with England Lions, the Royals called up Sean Terry and Michael Roberts.
And the duo – with just five List A career appearances between them – responded in fine style with a 50 partnership as the Royals set about chasing the Lightning’s total of 261 for nine.
But while Hampshire finished five runs short of victory – after failing to get the required 12 from the last over – Mascarenhas was delighted with the efforts of the talented young duo.
He was particularly impressed with the way they dealt with Lancashire’s experienced new-ball pairing Glen Chapple and former Royals swing bowler Kabir Ali.
Roberts, 24, eventually fell to Chapple for 25, while 22-year-old Terry went on to make 33.
‘We had two guys virtually making their debuts up the top,’ said Mascarenhas, who himself took five for 42 and claimed a run out as he continued to show his worth in a Royals shirt.
‘It is not easy to fill Carberry and Vince’s shoes but I thought they did a wonderful job, played with maturity and got us off to a really good start.
‘That was our plan – to have wickets in hand towards the end and see what happens. And we were just short.
‘We thought long and hard about what the order was going to be.
‘But at the end of the day these boys open together in the second team, they make lots of runs in the second team, so we thought why break them up? And it nearly paid off.
‘We know what Glen Chapple and Kabir Ali can do.
‘Glen Chapple, for me, is the best bowler going around in county cricket.
‘He doesn’t give you anything, so I thought the boys did extremely well. It nearly came off for us.’
Skipper Jimmy Adams (41), Neil McKenzie (65) and Sean Ervine (43) all weighed in with useful knocks, while Adam Wheater (21) and Mascarenhas (13 off seven balls) provided a late rally.
But while Mascarenhas backed himself to fire the Royals to glory with 12 required the last over, it didn’t work out as he was caught by Ashwell Prince off the first ball.
He said: ‘To get that close is a bit heartbreaking. Nine out of 10 times I would back us to get that but unfortunately I got out to a full toss.
‘It could have gone anywhere but that is cricket, I guess.’
Hampshire handed a debut to 16-year-old off-spinner Brad Taylor, after he impressed against the touring Bangladesh A team.
He removed Stephen Moore with his third ball and added Simon Katich to his scalps as he returned figures of two for 50.
But unfortunately for the Winchester talent, he could not inspire victory on his Yorkshire Bank 40 bow.
And Hampshire must now defeat Derbyshire on Monday to make certain of topping group B and netting a home semi-final.