Hampshire Royals young contingent certainly displayed their emerging talent in a Caribbean T20 run which ultimately culminated in a 36 run defeat last night to pre-tournament favourites Trinidad and Tobago at the Kensington Oval in Barbados.
The Rose Bowl outfit were looking for successive T20 crowns following their memorable last-ball triumph on home soil against Somerset in August bringing the domestic limited over’s prize to the club for the first time.
But the Royals failed to muster any real substance with the bat and could not chase down T&T’s 147-8 on a tricky, slow track, making only 111-7 in their reply.
A flurry of late wickets meant the onus was on Hampshire’s bowlers to offer resistance, but an inventive spell of bowling overseen by T&T Captain and West Indian wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin stifled any hope of a reprieve.
But Giles Whites team can take a lot away from their experience in the Caribbean.
With the likes of opening batter Michael Lumb, Captain Dimitri Mascarenhas, stand-in skippers Dominic Cork and Nic Pothas all missing, in turn with the overseas arrivals of leg-spinner Imran Tahir and South African Friedel de Wet still to come this summer, it was an opportunity for the club’s up and coming talent to stamp their authority on proceedings.
Led finely by the experience and guile of stand-in Royals Captain Jimmy Adams, Benny Howell (who incidentally contributed 2/14 with the ball and top scored 28 with the bat in the final), Danny Briggs, Chris Wood and James Vince, among others, showed maturity and seamless talent in their performances in the West Indies – which can only form a benchmark for a positive 2011 summer.
Hampshire’s employment of youth underlines the continuous progress of a fledging academy system, one of which is likely to form the basis of a trophy assault on three fronts onwards from April.
And Sunday’s experience against a competent T20 team, who can boast the highest net run-rate in the competition, in difficult chasing conditions can only bode well as the Royals look to gradually create a brand of cricket – buoyed both by experienced cricketing nous and a blend of academy production.
Full pre-season coverage and squad analysis to follow soon on Stuart's Sporting Spotlight.