Vince hoping new-look opening partnership can help Hampshire regain winning T20 formula
James Vince is hoping his new-look opening partnership with D’Arcy Short can provide great foundations for Hampshire to end a miserable run of T20 form.
The skipper will partner Australian international Short at the top of the order in a Vitality Blast campaign starting on Wednesday evening against Kent at Canterbury.
Short, who bats left handed and also offers a spin option, and seam bowler Kyle Abbott will be the county’s two allocated overseas players for the first half of a 14-game South qualifying group, before New Zealand all-rounder Colin De Groundhomme arrives later this month to give Abbott a rest.
Vince has batted regularly at No 3 for Hampshire in T20 cricket, but has enjoyed his biggest personal success as an opener - including a Blast record 710-run haul in 2015.
Vince was also in superb form when he opened for the Sydney Sixers in the 2020/21 Big Bash League.
He was man of the match in both the semi-final and final, hitting 98 not out and 95 against Perth Scorchers to end as the tournament’s second highest runscorer with 537 at 38.35.
With 6,544 runs at 30.57, Vince is the sixth highest English-qualifed runscorer in T20 history - only Alex Hales, Luke Wright, Ravi Bopara, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler have more runs to their name.
In 137 T20 Blast games for Hampshire, he has 3,826 runs at 32.98. Only three players - Luke Wright, Joe Denly and Rikki Wessels - have ever scored more.
With Short averaging 36.80 from 99 T20 innings, on paper Hampshire, rebranded as the Hawks once again for the tournament, have one of the best opening partnerships in the 2021 Blast - if not the best.
‘I’m very excited to see D’Arcy play,’ said Vince.
‘He’s not a dasher who only comes off now and again, he’s a very consistent runscorer. Hopefully he’ll be a great addition and we can get off to some good starts.’
Vince will be hoping Short can show the sort of form he displayed for Durham on his only previous experience of English county cricket.
He struck 483 runs in 12 innings for the north east county in the 2019 Vitality Blast at an average of 43.90.
Only three players scored more than him in that year’s tournament - Somerset pair Babar Azam and Tom Banton and Middlesex’s Dawid Malan. That is some company he was keeping.
Short won three man of the match awards at Durham, including one for an innings of 46 off 40 balls and 2-19 off four overs against Northants on debut.
He also claimed two more awards for explosive batting displays against Leicestershire - hitting 70 off 36 balls and 77 not out off 36 deliveries.
Hampshire spectators will have to wait to see Short and Vince walk out together in the flesh - the county’s first seven South group games are all away due to The Ageas Bowl hosting the World Test Championship final.
But when they do finally get to see some T20 action for the first time since 2019, they will be hoping Hampshire have improved on their recent Blast record.
Once, they were THE team to beat in T20 cricket. Between 2011-2015 the county won 41 group games, out of 64, and lost just 16.
In Vince’s first season, 2010, Hampshire won the T20 trophy on home soil and lifted it again two years later after beating Yorkshire in Cardiff.
They created a county record in reaching six successive Final Days between 2010-2015 inclusive, and reached a seventh in 2017.
Since then, though, their record is dismal. Hampshire have won just nine of their last 34 group games, over three seasons, and lost 22.
‘Last year was tough because of Covid and the fact we were missing a lot of players,’ recalled Vince. ‘But prior to that, we had fallen off the top of our game.
‘Now we’re hungry to get back to where we were.
‘There’s no better feeling than getting to Finals Day and ending up with a winners’ medal round your neck. That’s why you play the game.’
Hampshire, with a fairly inexperienced side shorn of Vince for the first few games and the injured Liam Dawson for the entire campaign, finished bottom of their group last year, winning just two games and losing seven. One of their victories was in their final fixture, a dead rubber against Middlesex, when Shaheen Shah Afridi took four wickets in four balls to finish with a county best 6-19.
The headlines around those figures slightly masked the fact the Pakistan international had only taken 1-191 in his first seven Blast outings.
In 2018 and 2019, overseas signings Tabraiz Shamsi (three wickets at an average of 47.00) and Mujeeb Zadran (nine wickets at 35.00) hardly set The Ageas Bowl alight either.
Short’s record with Durham should ensure he contributes more in 2021 to Hampshire’s hopes of making it out of the group stage - and de Grandhomme’s all-round ability and T20 nous marks him out as a quality addition as well.
‘Looking at the squad this year, I think we’ve got all bases covered,’ said Vince.
‘We’ve got players capable of winning matches, but you need them to deliver.
‘It’s going to be tough playing seven matches away from home, that’s a lot of travel.
‘We finish at Chelmsford at 10 or 11 this Friday and we’re then playing at Hove the following evening.
‘We’ll need to be smart to make sure we’re physically and mentally fit.
‘Hopefully we can win a few games early on to build momentum and confidence.’
Chris Wood and James Fuller will no doubt have key roles to play in Hampshire’s Blast campaign.
Wood, who only has a white ball contract, has taken more T20 wickets than anyone else in Hampshire history. With 130, he is ninth in the all-time Blast list - a list topped by his former county colleague Danny Briggs (172).
Fuller has yet to appear in Hampshire’s Championship team in 2021 but his big-hitting and seam bowling will see him occupy a key middle order slot.
Both Fuller and Wood have had a few T20 outings for Hampshire’s 2nds in recent days, but there’s been little time for practice for those who have been on Championship duty.
Hampshire arrived at Canterbury on Tuesday afternoon and were planning a practice session, and Vince revealed they also had a few T20 sessions a fortnight ago when they were without a red-ball fixture.
Short had his first run-out for Hampshire in the second of two 2nd XI T20 games against Essex 2nds at Chelmsford yesterday.
It wasn’t a memorable debut, out for a single, but elsewhere a couple of youngsters put their name forward for possible Blast inclusion.
Pace bowler Scott Currie took 4-42 in the second game while Tom Scriven (41) and 18-year-old Tom Prest (39) top scored for the visitors.
Joe Weatherley and 19-year-old Toby Albert (both 40) had top scored for Hampshire in the first game against Essex, which like the second ended in defeat.
Sadly, one player who won’t be featuring for Hampshire in the Blast is batsman Aneurin Donald, who has suffered a relapse in his recovery from a knee operation and is likely to miss the entire tournament.
Kent, Hampshire’s opening opponents, have signed Afghanistan leg-spinner Qais Ahmad for the Blast campaign. But he won’t be available until later this week following a mandatory quarantining period in a third-party country.
Former Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir had been set to link up with Kent for the Blast, but due to Covid-related restrictions and the rescheduled Pakistan Super League he won’t be coming after all. In his place Kent have signed New Zealand paceman Adam Milne for his fourth stint with the county - but he won’t be available until the end of this month.
Hampshire (v Kent, possible XI): Short, Vince, Alsop, Northeast, Weatherley, Dawson, Fuller, McManus, Abbott, Wood, Currie.