Vince expecting a battle for his place
It is a rare scenario for a Man of the Series not to be assured a starting place when the team he starred for next takes the field. But that's the situation James Vince finds himself in ahead of the T20 series against South Africa which acts as preparation for the World T20 in India next month.
Vince scored 125 runs in the three T20s against Pakistan in November but is not nailed on to start in England's first-choice XI. England juggled their options against Pakistan - and may do the same against South Africa - but will need to know their preferred line-up by the time they open their World T20 campaign against West Indies on March 16.
Vince's success came in the top three where there is a log-jam for positions alongside Alex Hales, Jason Roy and Joe Root. Hales, who was Man of the Series in the ODIs against South Africa and has England's lone T20I century, and Joe Root are assured of starting so Vince may have to topple Roy - who had a lean one-day series and has just 80 runs in his six T20Is - to make the final XI
"It's been a breakthrough year," Vince said. "It's only a start. I've had three matches, but they gave me some confidence going into this series. It is a very strong side and there are some exceptional players, so it is going to be tough to get in."
Vince's timing and placement stood out in the series against Pakistan, which are his strengths instead of the brute-force approach employed by some of England's powerful strikers. Vince is comfortable with his style and won't be drawn into any hitting contests.
"I can't hit it as far as Stokes and Buttler" he said. "Yes, I play more traditional cricket shots ... but I think that's why batting in the first six overs is good for me, when the field's up. Then as the innings goes on, I try to pick the gaps - and if there's one in my area, I try to give it a whack."
While it is in T20s that Vince is gaining his England chances so far - he was not part of the one-day squad in South Africa and his lone ODI was a rain-ruined outing against Ireland where he did not bat - it is his traditional virtues which are seeing him tipped for England honours in Test cricket.
It is that ambition to earn a call into the Test team which helped Vince make up his mind not to go into the IPL auction - believing his game was not quite ready for the tournament - and also a desire to put his energies into his first year as Hampshire's club captain.
"I'm not sure my game's quite where it needs to be to be picked up in the IPL anyway," Vince said as England prepared for the T20 warm-up match against South Africa A. "But it's my first season as club captain of Hampshire - so I want to go back there, score some runs and get their season off to a good start and try to push my case for the Test side.''
"My way in has been through Twenty20, but I'd like to progress to the one-day and Test sides."
Although Vince did not put himself forward for the IPL, he has had experience of franchise T20 cricket after a spell with Karachi Kings in the Pakistan Super League. He played seven matches with mixed results: a top score of 44 but also four single-figure innings.
"It was a pretty good competition, and I played quite a bit of cricket in a short space of time, so it was good preparation for what's to come in India. It was good to play as an overseas player and experience different people in the dressing room, that sort of thing.''
Vince will face South Africa A in Paarl with Root and Ben Stokes likely to be rested while Hales may also sit out. Liam Dawson, the Hampshire allrounder, who has been included for the World T20, is with the team in South Africa but is not officially part of this squad while Liam Plunkett, who picked up an injury on the Lions tour in Dubai after being named as a replacement for Steven Finn but won't be going to India, has stayed in Potchefstroom where he has been rehabilitating.