NatWest T20 Blast August 21, 2014

Captaincy helps Vince stand tall

When you take over the captaincy of a side with an outstanding T20 pedigree it can come with significant pressure, but James Vince has taken to the role with aplomb in a season where his England credentials have risen

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James Vince is the batting saviour that England do not need. At least, not right now. Having waited until the last six months before the World Cup to soup up their ODI top three with a belligerent boundary-hitter, in the form of Alex Hales, England have had two (three if you count Surrey's punkish white-ball opener Jason Roy) come along at once.

The inclusion of Hales for the forthcoming one-day series against India had become something of a cause celebre, an unstoppable juggernaut accompanied by the sense that denying the public a chance to see his Popeye forearms engaged in bowler destruction over 50 overs for England would be a grave affront; the apparent obsession with "building a platform" likely to drive a significant section of those who follow the team to erect a scaffold of their own.

Vince is understanding, even if the promotion for his England Lions room-mate provided an inevitable buzzkill for his own chances. The pair opened together four times in the Lions' triangular series earlier this month, during which Hales scored the second of four List A hundreds in as many weeks. "He's a high-class player," Vince says, equably.

"I think Hales has proved himself in international T20 cricket, he's done well for Notts this year in all formats, he did well for the Lions and I think he rightly deserves a go."

"High-class" is the sort of epithet often attached to Vince's batting, his elegance drawing almost contractual comparisons with Michael Vaughan. Vince, having played T20 all his career, is a more aggressive hitter than Vaughan, if not quite up to Hales' level of blunt-force barbarism, and has attracted attention as a future international player ever since breaking into the Hampshire side as a teenager. A tally of 1220 first-class runs at 61.00 this season, alongside 398 at a strike rate of 151.33 in NatWest T20 Blast, indicates the breadth of Vince's talent.

While a dip in form around the start of the Royal London Cup may have cooled his chances of an ODI call-up even before Hales unleashed a storm, it is the Blast that provides Vince with another chance to buff his credentials. In his first season as Hampshire's T20 captain, he has led them to a record fifth successive finals day, having scored an unbeaten 93 off 51 balls to upstage Hales - who dropped Vince along the way - and Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in the last eight.

Vince, tall and rangy, with big, wide eyes that in other circumstances might be described as soulful, is considerably quieter than his two predecessors, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Dominic Cork. That is not surprising, given that his is still only 23, having being appointed Hampshire's youngest post-war captain. He was not an obvious candidate, having rarely done the job while coming through Hampshire's academy system but, according to Giles White, the director of cricket, his increasing maturity, not to mention greater consistency with the bat, encouraged the gamble.

It probably helps that in domestic T20, Hampshire are cricket's equivalent of La Maquina, so smoothly do the team's component parts work. White calls Vince an "astute leader, tactically" and believes he could do the job in longer formats and, potentially, at a higher level. "With captaincy comes a management part off field, making decisions and being responsible and that's something he's in tune with."

Vince admits that, given the side's run of success, there was added pressure in accepting the role. "In a way, having made four finals days in a row and won it twice, I didn't want to take the captaincy and end up going out in the group stages," he says. "We made the quarter-finals and that was rewarding and then to go away to a very strong Notts side and win there, that was a special day.

"As I've gone on I've become more confident in the decisions I've been making. I'm sure the other guys, when I first started, they weren't too sure how I was going to go in the job. Hopefully they've got a bit more confidence in me now, as I've got more confidence in myself. I'm less hesitant and backing myself to take decisions."

Added media responsibilities are another chore and, to begin with, Vince tugs compulsively at his tracksuit sleeve when answering questions. Like many modern players, he prefers to let his cricket do the talking. Before signing a contract with Hampshire, he played as either a centre-half or target-man forward with Reading's academy and still goes to watch QPR with his dad - though it is hard to imagine him putting in a "reducer" tackle or bellowing from the terraces.

As a forceful limited-overs opener capable of flowing middle-order strokeplay, it is tempting to see him as a potential successor to Ian Bell in England's set-up. Hales may be packing a couple of extra sticks of dynamite but Vince's first-class record suggests a stronger base for Test cricket. Here again, though, England are suddenly well stocked, with Joe Root and Gary Ballance, both a few months older than Vince, flanking the effervescent Bell in England's resurgent (for now) Test side.

He says it is "quite hard to gauge" how he is currently viewed by England and, naturally, was disappointed not to score more than 58 runs in four innings for the Lions. The T20 against India at the end of tour could offer another opportunity, perhaps as a partner for Hales. After the 12 months England have had, another saviour might come in handy after all.

"Seeing those guys go on and play gives you belief that you would be able to cope at that level, having trained with them and played with them. I've always wanted to play for England and I'm going to try my hardest to do that, if my time comes soon or if it doesn't, it's out of my control really."

Although not completely out of his control, as he will attempt to show at Edgbaston on Saturday, beginning with the Blast semi-final against Lancashire. Leading his side to another title would be "extra special", he says. Just as Hampshire have found the majority of their T20 opponents vincible in recent years, so their bright young captain has been rapidly overcoming obstacles. Maybe England will soon consider some of their white-ball problems Vince-able too.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paulo on August 22, 2014, 12:28 GMT

    Looking at the squad for Finals day, great to see Shah back. With Maxwell having a horror run, hopefully he'll strengthen our squad. In the few games he played he was a bit like Mckenzie.

    Adams should bat no lower than 3. The most underrated T20 batsman in the country. Easily one of the best. Terry in better form than Ervine but Ervine more experienced. Tough choice.

    1.Carberry 2.Vince 3.Adams 4.Shah 5.Dawson 6.Terry/Ervine 7.Smith 8.Coles 9.Wood 10.Bates 11.Briggs

  • Colin on August 21, 2014, 19:21 GMT

    When Vince finally plays for England, people will ask why he wasn't playing years before. Taylor, Vince, Hales and possibly Westley all need a look. I really believe that nobody should play all 3 formats and Test players shouldn't automatically be shoehorned into the ODI side on the basis of their Test exploits. Ballance, Root, Cook etc are wonderful players but would they do a better job than Hales, Vince and Taylor? The latter 3 are more dynamic and would bring verve and energy to the side. This theory is even more important for the bowlers. Jimmy and Broad should play the WC and then no more ODIs after that.

  • Dummy4 on August 21, 2014, 17:24 GMT

    Pick all 3. Our ODI game has been too slow for as long as I can remember it. If we lose, so what; lose in style.

  • Charles on August 21, 2014, 16:15 GMT

    Surely this guy should be groomed to be a possible successor to Alastair Cook .Most of he players in the current set up don't strike me as Captain material so there is a gap

  • Paulo on August 21, 2014, 16:11 GMT

    I'd say Vince is behind Taylor as a reserve Test middle order batsman, behind Roy and Taylor (and should be behind Lumb but probably isn't) for an ODI top order reserve and behind Roy for a T20I opener to replace Carberry. However I see him being involved in England's plans next year thanks to the hectic schedule. 56 games at least. Cricket every month. Rotation will be required and so I'm sure Vince will get a go.

  • Dummy4 on August 21, 2014, 14:32 GMT

    Would be shocked if he doesn't go to the West Indie tour as reserve batsman for the tests.

  • Andy on August 21, 2014, 12:53 GMT

    This is an astonishing statement: "He says it is "quite hard to gauge" how he is currently viewed by England". Let me get this straight - he is, and has been, one of the 4 or 5 quality batsmen around, and therefore one of the next in line. Surely the England management should be keeping him in touch with their thinking on his prospects? What he needs to do to get selected? What their long term plan is for him? Isn't this part of Andy Flower's role?

  • Paulo on August 21, 2014, 11:39 GMT

    Obviously as a Hants fan I'm a huge fan of Vince.

    His start of the season was phenomenal. Plenty of first class runs and 200 runs in the first 4 Blast games. However he then lost form spectacularly, like the rest of the lineup, which resulted in defeats. However it was good to see the team start to win games at the end of the group, not to forget of course Vince's role in the fantastic quarter final win.

    What I like about Vince is he can bat through while scoring runs quickly or can be pretty destructive. That makes him a pretty handy ODI player, like James Taylor and Alex Hales. However Vince probably ought to be behind them currently, based on current form.

    In T20Is I assume Roy will be ahead of him to replace Carberry. Perhaps Vince could replace Ian Bell at 3?

    Perhaps if he worked on his bowling he'd haven't a better chance of a place. It's known that England have an unhealthy obsession for allrounders. However Vince hasn't barely bowled himself. I hope it's not an issue.

  • Hamish on August 21, 2014, 11:31 GMT

    James Vince's First Class figures impress me more: 84 Matches, 136 innings, 4930 runs at an average of 40.74 and a strike rate of 65.2 with 13 hundreds and 19 fifties.

    Yes, he can be brutal in the shorter form of the game, but his ability to score all around the wicket, his controlled classy ground strokes into gaps and his understanding of how to build an innings and selection of when to pull out the controlled power strokes are what set Vince apart. Having watched him develop and grow as a cricketer at Hampshire I am convinced there is a big future for this young man in the highest form of the game. In years to come we might even hear the pundits say that he's the best England captain since Hussain.

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