Talking point – can Aussie Big Bash League star James Vince feature for England in this autumn’s T20 cricket World Cup?

It is truly an embarrassment of riches - and they could help England create one-day international cricket history later this year.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 2:48 pm
James Vince, pictured during his man of the match performance in the Big Bash League final, has not played a T20 international since November 2019. Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images.

While the current Test series in India provides engrossing action, it is just one of the high profile dates in the global 2021 international calendar.

Next October, England are due to return to the sub-continent to take part in the seventh T20 World Cup.

They are aiming to become the first nation to ever become champions of the world in both 50-over and 20-over formats at the same time.

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Though England have won the T20 World Cup before, in 2010 in the Caribbean, never before have they boasted such an array of batting talent as they currently possess.

To underline that statement, just take a look at the Australian Big Bash League which finished at the weekend.

The top two run scorers in the tournament - Sydney Thunder’s Alex Hales and James Vince of the Sydney Sixers - are England internationals.

But both are currently on the outside looking in with regards their country’s T20 team, as both were left out of the squad for the five-game T20 series coming up in India.

There was a return, though, for Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone, even though he scored fewer runs in the BBL for Perth Scorchers than Hales or Vince.

Hales has been banished to the international wilderness, having last appeared for his country in March 2019, with no sign of a return.

Having been named in England’s World Cup squad the following month, he withdrew two days later citing personal reasons. It later came to light he had failed a drugs test and was subsequently withdrawn from the squad that went on to win the trophy in dramatic circumstances at Lord’s.

Vince, who celebrates his 30th birthday next month, last played a T20 international in November 2019. He appeared in four of the five games in New Zealand, winning the man of the match award in the first for his 59.

The Hampshire skipper also made 49 in the third game, but after being dismissed for a single in the fifth has been left out of his country’s next 11 T20 internationals.

Being dropped after the series against the Kiwis might have appeared harsh, but England have prospered since.

They have won eight of those 11 matches, only losing twice with one match abandoned. They are currently top of the ICC world rankings.

Most of the top order have contributed somewhere along the way.

Dawid Malan has leapt to the top of the ICC world rankings for T20 batsmen with a succession of high scores - following an unbeaten 103 in New Zealand with scores of 99 and 55 (v South Africa), 66 (v Australia) and 54 not out (v Pakistan).

Jonny Bairstow hit an unbeaten 86 against South Africa, Jos Buttler an undefeated 77 against Australia, and skipper Eoin Morgan 66 against Pakistan.

In the official world rankings, Morgan (11th), Bairstow (16th) and Buttler (22nd) join Malan among the cream of international batsmen in the shortest format.

Barring injury, it is inconceivable that England would leave out any of that quartet, so where would Vince fit in?

The only member of the top order in recent games whose position could be under threat is opener Jason Roy.

A key member of the World Cup winning side in 50-over cricket, Roy’s T20 international record is less impressive. The Surrey man averages just 23.42 - easily the lowest of any of England’s premier T20 batsmen –from 38 innings. He has certainly had many chances.

Vince, by comparison, averages 28.33.

The Ageas Bowl captain’s star is high again after a superb finish to the BBL - man of the match in both the Sixers’ play-off semi-final and the final.

He followed up an unbeaten 98 in the play-offs against Perth Scorchers with 95 against the same team in the final at the weekend.

It was further proof of Vince’s undoubted talents in T20 cricket, and when you watch him play that well you wonder why he only has 12 T20 international caps to his name.

The imposing figures of Bairstow, Buttler, Malan and Morgan tell you half the reason why.

Asked by the Australian media after the final whether he thought his innings would boost his chances of an international return, Vince said he wasn’t thinking about England.

His body language gave the impression he is a bit fed up being asked about international recalls, but obviously his performances Down Under can only have helped.

Vince started the BBL season batting at No 3, but was promoted late on in the group stage. While opening, these were his scores - 38, 4, 46, 98 not out and 95.

If he is to win a recall, opening the batting with Buttler in place of Roy is the obvious move. At present, it is the only realistic move, but if Hales is offered an olive branch the Nottinghamshire batsman could be above Vince in the pecking order given his fine record for England.

And Hales could well be invited back into the fold, according to national selector Ed Smith.

Asked directly about Hales today, Smith said: ‘It's coming up for two years. In the English summer we'll look at inviting some people to training in the run-up to series as we look to extend and expand our squad and the relationships within.

‘We're always looking at ways to consider getting players who aren't currently in the actual squad to come along to training days, perhaps in the run-up to a series.

‘We're very aware of everything players do in franchise cricket around the world and I think that is something we will discuss and look at moving forward, with what's best for England cricket.’

England have other options, though, if they want - or are forced to - change a winning side.

Test skipper Joe Root and Somerset’s exciting opener Tom Banton are other options.

Among the men who have played in recent T20Is, Root’s average of 35.72 is better than everyone apart from Malan, who is averaging an outrageous 53.43 from 19 matches.

Banton, apart from a sparkling 77 against Pakistan last year, has yet to fully announce himself on the international scene, but England rate him highly.

It is quite likely the national team will go into this autumn’s World Cup without Alex Hales, without James Vince, without Joe Root and without Tom Banton.

They might also go in without Moeen Ali or Sam Billings.

If they did, then England could field a 2nd XI in T20 cricket that would be pretty formidable!

With time ticking, chances are running out for Vince - who holds the record for the most T20 runs in a calendar year by an Englishman (1,390 in 2019) - to force his way back in ahead of the World Cup.

After the India series, England have three games each against Sri Lanka and Pakistan this summer.

As it stands, Vince is due in Asia later this month - to play for Multan Sultans in the Pakistan T20 Super League.

More of the same he produced in Australia, but this time on the sub continent, could give the national selectors an ever bigger World Cup nudge.

T20 squad for India: England T20 squad: E Morgan (c) M Ali, J Archer, J Bairstow, S Billings, J Buttler (wkt), S Curran, T Curran, C Jordan, L Livingstone, D Malan, A Rashid, J Roy, B Stokes, R Topley, M Wood. Reserves: J Ball, M Parkinson.

T20 international stats

Jason Roy: 38 innings, 890 runs, av 23.42, 0 x 100, 5 x 50

Jos Buttler: 66 innings, 1,551 runs, av 29.26, 0 x 100, 10 x 50

Dawid Malan: 19 innings, 855 runs, av 53.43, 1 x 100, 9 x 50

Jonny Bairstow: 40 innings, 932 runs, av 28.24, 0 x 100, 6 x 50

Eoin Morgan: 93 innings, 2,278 runs, av 30.37, 0 x 100, 14 x 50

Alex Hales: 60 innings, 1,644 runs, av 31.01, 1 x 100, 8 x 50

James Vince: 12 innings, 340 runs, av 28.33, 0 x 100, 1 x 50

Joe Root: 30 innings, 893 runs, av 35.72, 0 x 100, 5 x 50

Tom Banton: 9 innings, 205 runs, av 22.77, 0 x 100, 1 x 50