James Vince is a curious case in English cricket. The ones watching him season after season, dominating in the Big Bash League, the T20 Blast and The Hundred would attest to his talent. However, he has never been a sure-shot starter for the Three Lions, despite all of this.
“Vince is one of my favourite players. I love watching him bat. He is so fluent when he gets going. It is frustrating as a fan of watching him batting that he hasn’t been able to go on in an English shirt, but now, with his experience, that will help him if gets another chance,” said James Anderson on BBC Two.
Vince is indeed a globe-trotter in the shortest format of the game, with the exception of the Indian Premier League, of course. Believe it or not, the 31-year-old has played over 300 T20s, amassed 8274 runs, averaging 31 while striking at 134.29. He’s a certified professional in the shortest format, more than the other formats but stands no where in contention for a place in the English playing XI.
The Hundred provides him with the perfect opportunity. The timing is as good as it gets for Vince, considering how England’s first-choice opener Jason Roy has looked terribly out of touch. Roy has in the last few years, perennially has been the glue to the English batting unit. And most times, his aggression has got the Three Lions off the best start possible.
However, his position in the team is no longer a certainty.
"No one in the team has mortgage on a spot,” said England’s white-ball coach, Matthew Mott ahead of the Hundred, which in all signals that he isn’t afraid of taking the bold and brave decision.
Vince has usually batted at No.3 for the Three Lions but in Roy’s patchy form, he could very well replace him as an opener. Is there a merit to Vince replacing Roy in the setup?
Vince’s case for a place
In 158 out of the 286 innings, Vince has walked out to face the new ball, some in the flattest of conditions but others in the toughest of ones. It is incidentally one batting position, where he has found success all over the world, including in Australia, where the T20 World Cup is going to be played at.
Vince, in Australia, opening the batting averages 30.58, striking at 137.3, including hitting his highest score of 98*. Not just that, as an opener, the right-hander has impressive numbers against both pace and spin, one that has hindered the English batting unit for some time.
On top of that, the 31-year-old has played enough in Australia over the last few years to know the conditions, adding the much-needed experience for the Three Lions. Vince’s experience is definitely irreplaceable, so the Hundred has come at the right time for the right-hander.
Vince and England go a long way. In fact, the right-hander was arguably one of the most crucial pieces of puzzle in Hampshire’s success. With the bat, Vince was monumentally monstrous, with 678 runs, averaging 48.42 while still striking at 146.12, bringing up two centuries and three fifties. Across the last two seasons, Vince the opener, has scored 1358 runs, showing that he has been consistently in form.
As a captain, his cool, calm and composed demeanour was integral in setting blaze to the scene. Vince across his English domestic career has manned the role of opening the order, with some elegance. To top all of that, Vince was also named T20 Blast Player of the Year, suggesting how he is already up there.
While the second season of the Hundred did not get off to the explosive start possible, with the sixes and the high-scores, it perhaps started in the best way possible for Vince. On a night that lacked fireworks, with just one six in the first innings, the Southern Braves skipper played it perfectly to the conditions, with a 41-ball 71, scoring eight boundaries and one six.
What's in store for Vince?
When the right-hander is at crease, it almost feels like he has extra seconds at his disposal, which England all-rounder Chris Jordan too emphasised post the match.
"He must have as good a chance of anyone [breaking into the England T20 World Cup squad]. He has been in consistent form all summer. He's always a couple of steps ahead of the game. All the moves he makes seem to land,” Jordan said post the match.
England’s next assignment is Pakistan, another nation that Vince has a grasp of, considering his experience in the Pakistan Super League, where he has played for more than one club. When he has opened the batting in PSL, his strike-rate has been at 142.8, which in ideal should allow the current skipper, Buttler to play his natural game.
While this Hundred would be more than crucial for Vince to seal his place, it also is a perfect opportunity for him to leapfrog the other contender, Phil Salt. But the Hampshire-blood in Vince will only echo Shane Warne’s famous words.
"Never give up. Just absolutely never give up."