While the eyes of English cricket were focused firmly on Derby to ascertain the potential goods and greats of England’s future, in a relatively sedate corner of Surrey there were plenty of other England international’s past, present and possibly future on show. At Whitgift, a school with a rich tradition of nurturing notable sporting talent, there were England internationals everywhere.
Dominic Cork, Gareth Batty, Chris Schofield and Simon Jones represented the past, Steven Davies, who endured a somewhat mixed game, still very much represents the present but it was the possible future internationals which were clearly in evidence. Certainly the likes of Danny Briggs, though he struggled on an unhelpful surface, Rory Hamilton-Brown, Tom Maynard and Jason Roy all have scope to potential into high class players. A word too for Benny Howell who in a losing cause gave a fine cameo and who looks a well-organised batsman and at 22 could be one to keep an eye on.
All offered brief glimpses of their talent-Hamilton-Brown getting Surrey off on a flier, Roy and Maynard hitting straight and powerfully. Yet amidst all the power hitters and potential stars of the future, one in particular caught the eye in Hampshire’s James Vince. He didn’t score that many-24 runs off 13 balls-but they were probably the most graceful 24 runs out of the 586 scored in the match. Vince was once compared by former England coach Duncan Fletcher to Michael Vaughan and the likeness is uncanny. He stands tall, sets up his technique the same way, and cover drives with the same technical finesse as Vaughan once did.
Yet there was something else about him. Whereas the other young batsmen seemed to rely on sending the crashing to the boundary with a meaty hit out of their oversized bat-sometimes with the technical grace of a woodcutter attempting to smash the heart out of a mighty oak-Vince simply caressed the ball, timing it to perfection. He seemed to utilise utmost economy of effort and yet he would thread the eye of the needle and send the ball trundling away for four.
Sadly his cameo was all too brief-like Vaughan he appears to have a habit of getting himself out rather than allowing the bowler to-but this was an eye-catching innings without doubt. In an age where youngsters are being taught to hit the ball hard and true, Vince’s innings was one in the manner of a more civilised age.
It was that art of timing and stroke play which has been utilised so gracefully down the years by a line of English artists like David Gower, Michael Vaughan and latterly Ian Bell. One hopes that James Vince can develop like those three did, because crickets needs its artists as well as it’s artisans and he appears well schooled in that fine art of timing.