England Under-19s captain Will Rhodes conceded the World Cup semi-final defeat to Pakistan was a bitter pill to swallow.
Pakistan have been something of a nemesis to England at Under-19 level over the past year, with victories in home and away series, and so it proved once again during a dramatic encounter at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
On a worn pitch that was being used for the third day in succession, England found the going tough initially before a sensational captain’s innings of 76 from Rhodes dragged them up to 204 for seven.
In-form paceman Matthew Fisher combined with spin duo Rob Sayer and Rob Jones to reduce Pakistan to 142 for seven, but Zafar Gohar and Amad Butt responded with an unbroken match-winning partnership.
"Obviously it's pretty heartbreaking to lose on such a big stage,” Rhodes told ecb.co.uk. “I’m proud of the lads for what they've achieved in this tournament.
“We’ve done well to get as far as we have. It’s just one of those that’s a bit unfortunate we couldn’t go all the way.
“A couple of errors in the field cost us but it’s all a learning curve. I’m sure we’ll come back better this summer, which is all that you can do really.”
Before that, England have the prospect of a third-place play-off on Friday against whoever comes off second best in the other semi-final between Australia and South Africa - something Rhodes feels will soon shift the sombre mood that engulfed the team coach on its route away from the stadium.
“It is downbeat but I think we’re still pretty positive,” said the Yorkshire all-rounder. “We’ve still got one game to go and we want to win it.
“It could be the last game we play together for a long while so we want to leave on a high and come third in the tournament. I think that would surpass our expectations that we had at the start.”
Had it not been for Rhodes and a battling 52 from number-three Ryan Higgins, England would have fallen well short of a competitive total.
Considering the conditions, Rhodes insisted he felt England had enough runs on the board, only to be undone by a nerveless final assault from Gohar and Butt.
"We thought 180-200 was a defendable total on that wicket, with it being the same pitch that’s been used for the last three days,” he added.
“We thought we did have enough for our bowlers to defend and until the last two overs it was enough.
“Unfortunately we just couldn’t close out the game and couldn’t take our chances in the last five overs, which is a little disappointing
“But I think we can all hold our heads up high. We’ve done fantastically well do get where we have, beating some very good sides along the way.”