James Vince: Hampshire batsman out to showcase talent for England

By Kalika MehtaBBC Sport
James Vince
Vince was appointed Hampshire vice-captain for the Championship and One-Day Cup prior to 2014 season

In the last eight years, only two batsmen from the second division of the County Championship have made Test debuts for England, Ravi Bopara and Moeen Ali.

It is a worrying trend for those plying their trade outside Division One.

But another player whose domestic record is demanding the attention of selectors is Hampshire's James Vince.

Last week, the 23-year-old completed a career-best 240 off just 222 balls against Essex, and in the process became the first batsman to pass 1,000 runs this summer, a full two months earlier than Derbyshire's Wayne Madsen did so in 2013.

"My ultimate ambition is to play for England," Vince told BBC Sport. "What I've done so far this year should have pushed my name forward a little bit."

After a breakthrough season with Hampshire in 2013, when Vince scored over 1,200 first-class runs, including five hundreds and six half-centuries, at an average of 63.94, he was named in the England Lions squad that played in Sri Lanka in February.

Given the meltdown the senior side endured last winter in Australia, the trip provided an opportunity for second-string players to make their mark and press their claims for promotion.

James Vince
Hampshire are looking to reach finals day of the T20 competition for the fifth successive year in 2014

Vince was one of just four players in the 19-man squad to come from a Division Two side, alongside Worcestershire's Moeen and Essex pair Ben Foakes and Tymal Mills.

It turned out to be a rather chastening experience for Vince, who managed only 35 runs in two matches against a Sri Lanka Emerging Players team and was not picked for the three 'Tests' against Sri Lanka A that followed.

However, the setback did not dent his self-confidence and Vince has returned to his sparkling best with the bat in Hampshire's unbeaten start to the Championship season.

As well as his double hundred against Essex at the Ageas Bowl, Vince has also hit two further centuries and five fifties this season to help his side win four of their first nine game - as many as they won in the whole of last season.

"Every year you set a goal of scoring a thousand runs. That's the milestone over the season you look to achieve," he said.

"Each game I've gone into this season, I've had the mindset of going out to bat and put us in a good position as a team and score as many runs as I can.

"Hopefully, I can push on and get over 1,500 runs and maybe more if I carry on playing the way I have been."

Hampshire were relegated from Division One in 2011, having won just three of their 16 matches, finishing a mammoth 119 points behind champions Lancashire.

In the last two years the county had to settle for fourth place in Division Two with their successes coming in the shorter forms of the game.

The club lifted the 40-over and Twenty20 trophies in 2012, becoming the first county to hold both simultaneously, and also reached T20 finals day last summer before losing to Surrey by four wickets.

This season, however, their priorities have changed.

"Going into this year we identified that four-day cricket and getting back into Division One was something that we needed focus on," Sussex-born Vince said.

"In previous years we didn't get in positions where we were on top and could go on and win.

"Bar the Worcester game and perhaps Derby away, in every game we've played we've been in a position where we could possibly win the game."

Despite his young age, Vince is well respected at Hampshire and as well as being skipper Jimmy Adams' deputy in the four-day game and new 50-over One-Day Cup, he was appointed T20 captain for this year's campaign.

He is the youngest professional player at Hampshire to be made captain, but the added pressure and expectation has not affected his play.

Opening the batting instead of occupying his normal place at number four, Vince has hit three half-centuries and amassed 259 runs in seven innings to take Hampshire to second place in the South group, having won five of their first seven matches, just two points behind leaders Essex.

"The captaincy has added responsibility," Vince admitted. "In previous years when I have been batting I've wanted to do everything possible to help the team win the game.

"That hasn't changed but it does give you an extra focus and every time I go in to bat if I can get us as close as possible to winning a game that's what I'll try and do.

"Also now, when we're fielding, I have to interact with the bowlers a bit more and speak with them about field placings.

"In previous years, I've just been stood around the field waiting for the ball to come to me. Now there's a lot more thinking about the game.

"Obviously, if we aren't performing well, I'm sure there would be questions asked of me as captain, so I want to win as many games as we can in the competition and get us to another finals day."

With Moeen and fellow newcomers Sam Robson and Chris Jordan having taken to Test cricket confidently against Sri Lanka, Vince may still have to wait for his chance at international level with five Tests against India in July and August looming.

The one-day and T20 internationals that follow perhaps offer a better chance if he is to make the breakthrough this summer.

But Vince is very aware of the need to continue the consistent form he has shown so far if he is to come into consideration.

"Hopefully I can continue putting in good performances for Hampshire and push myself closer to playing for England," he added.

If he keeps pushing with the same force as at present, it seems inevitable the door to international cricket will eventually open.

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