Vince: I’m ready to make step up
JAMES VINCE insisted yesterday he was up to the challenge of Test cricket if the selectors name him in the England squad for the first clash of the summer against Sri Lanka at Headingley next week.
The Hampshire captain, 25, is expected to get the call-up to plug the gap left by the enforced retirement of James Taylor when England’s four-man panel hammer out a 12-man squad for the first Test today.
Speaking at Old Trafford yesterday, where he was leading a rearguard in an effort to save the match, Vince maintained he was “definitely” ready for the challenge if it comes his way.
“I feel like I have been in good nick this season so far and things have been going well with the bat so I definitely feel I am ready to make the step up,” he said.
“It is a case of keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that I get a call and some good news.
“I know they – coach Trevor Bayliss and selector James Whitaker – were here on the first day when I was run out for nothing. But hopefully they have already seen what they need to see.”
Following his nine-ball effort on Sunday, Vince chiselled 39 undefeated runs from 147 balls of tough Lancashire seam bowling led by Jimmy Anderson after his side had been asked to follow on.
It was an innings which his county needed and one which his country will have noted.
Vince provides Bayliss and Alastair Cook with flexibility given he can slot in where Taylor batted at No5, or come in with yesterday’s more obdurate head on, at first drop.
Nick Compton remains the man in possession of that spot following his efforts in South Africa. But the diminishing returns from that series, as well as his age (32) have left selectors split on whether he is the man to take England forward.
Indeed, had Ian Bell not been injured – the Warwickshire batsman suffered a hamstring strain on day one of the county match against Somerset at Edgbaston on Sunday – or Gary Ballance not been in indifferent nick for Yorkshire, they could have edged him out.
Key to the problem is the fact that Joe Root, England’s best batsman, is happy to stay at No4 and not move up a place in the order. Given that, selectors look likely to stay faithful to Compton in the loosest sense whilst looking for him or someone else to stake a firmer claim.
Vince could be that man if Compton stagnates again like he did last time when his place was on the line at Headingley – scoring a stultifying seven in an hour and 25 minutes against New Zealand in May 2013, an innings that saw him dispatched to the wilderness until picked for the South Africa tour last December.
Alex Hales is another who will find the spotlight burning through the Test series against Sri Lanka after a wholly underwhelming series in South Africa, when he averaged 17 in four matches last winter.
The feeling among the selectors remains that he has more scope for improvement than Compton and will be given the three Tests against the Sri Lankans to prove that he can finally transfer his at times electrifying white-ball form to the five-day format.
The selectors have also been watching Middlesex’s Sam Robson hit his third century of the new season with an unbeaten 114 at Lord’s and there will be support for the resurrection of his seven-Test career.
In addition, Hales will be feeling further heat on his neck from Alex Lees of Yorkshire.
With Mark Footitt facing up to eight weeks out with an abdominal injury, the only other question expected to be discussed today is whether Nottinghamshire’s seamer Jake Ball has done enough to warrant a closer look.