James Vince was the first player to get the unwanted phonecall from the new national selector Ed Smith earlier this season when he was dropped from the Test side. A double century on the eve of the squad announcement wasn’t enough to save him after a winter which offered flashes of promise but too many flashes outside off stump.
Vince remains understandably diplomatic about his omission, which came despite making 76 in the final Test against New Zealand, although he believes he was getting close to a breakthrough performance.
“I think I’ve been treated very fairly and been given good opportunities before that,” he said. “I’m averaging 24-25, that doesn’t mean you should be selected for England. I understood it, but at the same time, 70-odd in the last Test then 200 the week before [selection], I felt I was going to get that big one in Test cricket and felt in a good place to do it in the first Test this summer.”
On Saturday, the Royal London Cup final, against Kent at Lord’s, offers another chance in the spotlight, albeit in a different format to the one in which he relinquished his position.
“I think every game is a big opportunity,” he said. “But, yes, tomorrow, not just for me but for everyone. There are some young guys making really good progress. It’s a chance for them to get noticed and for myself and some of the older guys to show they can do it on the big days.”
England are certainly not short on batting options in the white-ball game – the dilemma of how to fit Ben Stokes back in the site is evidence of that – but there could yet be one spot in the World Cup squad up for grabs. Sam Billings, Vince’s opposite number in the final, has been left out of the squad to face India; Billings has had a frustrating time carrying the drinks while being unable to take the occasional chances that have come his way.
It could well be that Billings does enough to be at the World Cup – he is a versatile cricketer, and brilliant in the field which is an important aspect – but there is a chance for others to make the selectors ponder too. Vince has scored 504 runs in the Royal London Cup, peaking with a magnificent 171 in the semi-final against Yorkshire, which followed a century against Somerset in the last group match.
Vince’s ODI career has been limited to five matches. His debut came in Dublin on the occasion that Peter Moores was sacked in 2015; on a miserable day he didn’t get a bat then a year later made a half-century in his second outing against Sri Lanka. Three more matches followed in Bangladesh, when he filled the spot vacated by the absent Alex Hales, but he missed his chance to press for a permanent place with 53 runs in three innings and hasn’t featured since.
“That is a very tough side to get into at the minute, bowling and batting, but the batting especially they are winning games,” Vince said. “All you can do is get yourself as high up the ladder to be the next guy in, whether it’s an injury or loss of form. At the minute there is probably no batter in the country who would expect to be in that side. So it’s a waiting game for the guys playing county cricket.”
He is probably a long-shot to make the final World Cup squad because his best position in 50-over cricket would be among the top three, where England are already likely to have a natural reserve once Stokes fits back in, but a hundred in a Lord’s final – even in an era where the fixture carries less weight – would do no harm.