September 11, 2012

Vince knock lights up Sky

When I first came to the UK, I thought Liam Dawson was going to be the next big thing in English cricket

When I first came to the UK, I thought Liam Dawson was going to be the next big thing in English cricket. In one week, I saw him take wickets with his part-time left-arm spin and score impressive runs repeatedly in the middle order for Hampshire and England U-19s. I did all this without ever leaving my house. Liam Dawson just happened to be on Sky every time I turned on my TV, and I saw every single good thing he did.

Four years on, Dawson averages 32 in first-class cricket and less than a wicket a match. He's only 22, and I still think he has talent, but by this stage in his career I would like his figures to be a bit prettier than that.

There are 18 counties in UK county cricket, spread over two divisions. It's impossible to follow it all unless you're a crazy fan with too much time on your hands. Most county writers only follow one team, or one region. International cricket writers barely see any live county cricket.

It's also impossible to follow it all if you're a selector trying to find the next big thing. Geoff Miller can't be at every ground. Even for Ashley Giles, who works in county cricket as coach of Warwickshire, he is only going to see some players two or three times a year. In old-fashioned times, it was a large reason why selectors picked the players from their area; sure, some were biased, but it's easier to pick someone you know than someone else you hardly see and are just relying on scorecard information.

Because of TV, a lot of that has changed. Bizarrely, Merv Hughes suggested you learn little about a cricketer from watching TV, although the many analysts that cricket teams have now would suggest otherwise.

So when James Vince glided to the crease, and he does glide, with Hampshire 26 for 3 in their televised Division Two game and left at 226 for 6 with a hundred to his name, it couldn't have been much-better timed. Even without the cameras Vince may have scored this knock, but how many people would have seen it? How many people would have been talking about the green pitch, the odd bounce, and the effortlessness of Vince's knock? When he was dismissed, Vince had scored over half of Hampshire's total, on a pitch they looked like they wouldn't survive on until tea. It doesn't look as impressive on a scorecard. And with seven other scorecards out there, it's just another number for people to scan over.

Vince is a very pretty batsman to watch. He cover-drives like a painting, rarely seems rushed, never overhits the ball, plays straight, and can dispatch a ball off his pads without much effort. He's also only 21. It would be easy to put these things together and expect Vince to be getting a late call-up for India, or very soon after that.

In his career, Vince actually averages less than Dawson, and before this innings his Championship average for this year was 18. Even with those two facts, anyone who saw him playing against Derbyshire will bring it up in the future, because that's the power of a pretty green-top hundred that's been broadcast around the country.

Had Vince made this hundred three weeks ago, during a Test or even during any of his previous nine county matches this year, it just simply would not have meant as much to his career. If you're only going to make one county hundred a year, you couldn't time it better than when the Sky trucks are in the car park.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

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