Finals day return a distant dream for beaten Royals

James Vince's unbeaten 64 failed to inspire the Royals to victory   Picture: LMI Photography
James Vince's unbeaten 64 failed to inspire the Royals to victory Picture: LMI Photography
England's Mason Crane will make his England Test debut when the fifth Ashes Test begins at Sydney Cricket Ground tonight

Root: Hampshire talent will embrace Ashes debut

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A third consecutive Friends Life t20 finals day looks a distant dream as the Royals were comfortably beaten in their Ageas Bowl opener against Middlesex Panthers.

After last week’s 20-over clash against Sussex at Hove was washed out without a ball being bowled, Hampshire were aiming to kick-start their 2012 campaign in front of their own supporters.

However, their awesome t20 form on home turf in recent years counted for nothing as a superb 107-run partnership between the Panthers’ Paul Stirling and Dawid Malan effectively settled the match.

The pair came together with the visitors precariously placed on 18 for two – in reply to the Royals’ 157 for six.

But by the time Malan departed for 46 off 35 balls, the Panthers were well in command at 125 for three.

And although Stirling followed shortly after for an excellent 71, the visitors eased to victory with four balls and six wickets to spare.

Earlier, after winning the toss and opting to bat, the hosts made a bright start.

Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams notched 32 for the first wicket, before Toby Roland-Jones put the brakes on the innings.

First, the Panthers’ quick bowler castled Adams for 25, after the left-hander had clubbed four fours and a six, before Carberry (8) followed – holing out at deep mid-wicket.

And Neil McKenzie made an inauspicious Royals return, departing for a second-ball duck to the same bowler.

Sean Ervine (8) then drove Tom Smith tamely to mid-off, and Aussie Glenn Maxwell (15) picked out compatriot Steven Crook on the boundary to leave Hampshire 83 for five.

James Vince and Dimi Mascarenhas set about rebuilding and added a quick-fire 44, before the all-rounder lost his middle stump to that man Roland-Jones for his fourth wicket.

Bringing up his half-century, Vince hammered a four to square leg, was dropped by Neil Dexter, and clubbed a six over long-off to complete an eventful 19th over.

And the 21-year-old saw the innings through, finishing 64 not out, in what proved ultimately to be a losing cause.