Ahead of NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day, Henry Cowen spoke to Hampshire’s T20 skipper James Vince. He’s played some memorable innings in all three formats and he’s looking towards international recognition but tomorrow at Edgbaston, lifting the trophy for his county will be the only thing on his mind.
Building up to Finals Day must be a pretty exciting time, James…
Absolutely. I’ve looked forward to Finals Day every year for the last four years, it’s a really great event to play in, but it’s extra special this year going into it as captain.
Hampshire have made something of a habit of appearing at Finals Day, does it feel any different this year?
From a personal point of view it does, yeah. As I said, to go as captain does just make it that little bit more special but every year we’ve been it has been very enjoyable, it’s a fantastic day to play in and one that you don’t want to miss out on as a county cricketer. Hopefully the weather holds up, we’re able to entertain in front of a full house and we get the win.
At the half-way point in the quarter-final against Nottinghamshire, you might not have been everyone’s favourites to progress but you played one hell of an innings. Were there any doubts that you’d be able to chase down their total?
Well, we knew it was a good wicket but chasing down 200 in a quarter-final is always going to be a tough ask. Obviously I batted through to the end but the guys that batted around me did a fantastic job to come in and score at the asking rate straight away. It was a brilliant run chase and it really does stand us in good stead going into tomorrow. Generally when games get tight we find a way of getting over the line so going into a big occasion like Finals Day, being able to live on those memories and those wins from the past should give us an edge over the opposition.
There’s a bit of extra excitement this year in that the England players have all been made available. Are you looking forward to coming up against Jos Buttler and James Anderson?
Yeah, I’ve played a lot of cricket with Jos and we’ve played against each other a fair bit as well. It adds to the quality of cricket on display and for us it’s nice to play against international players. It’s nice that they’re playing but obviously we’re hoping they don’t have too much impact in that semi-final!
Talking of international players, you must have had half an eye on the England ODI squad announced the other day?
I think I’ve had a reasonable season and I’ve probably pushed my name as far forward as I could have done. I played a few Lions games last week in which ideally I would have liked to scored a few more runs but apart from that I’m pretty happy with how my season’s gone. Obviously I’m desperate to play for England but I’ll have to keep going with Hampshire and hopefully that will come one day.
And it does seem that fairly suddenly England have got quite a few young batsmen coming through who are exciting and who people want to watch – the likes of yourself, Alex Hales and Jason Roy, for example. Do you think this is a particularly exciting time for English cricket?
I hope so, obviously there’s a World Cup not too far away and there is quite a lot of cricket before then but they probably won’t want to change it around too much before then. It’s nice to see Halesy getting a chance in the ODIs coming up and we’ll have to see how it goes. I think India will be a tough test for them in this series but hopefully they can get a few wins and build up some confidence before the World Cup.
Obviously there are other things you’re focusing on more immediately, but is nailing down a place in the Test side as soon as you can something that you’re very keen to do?
I’d love to do that. I want to play for England and I want to play in all three formats but I don’t know how far away that will be and if it will ever come or not. All I can do is keep my head down at Hampshire and keep trying to score as many runs as possible and then if something comes from it I’ll be absolutely delighted.
We’ve seen with Gary Ballance and Joe Root that at Test level there is the opportunity to adapt to a new role in the order. There’s a possibility that the next space in the England batting line-up is as an opener, is that something that you’d back yourself to do?
I don’t really see myself as an opener in four-day cricket. The way I play is more suited to batting in the middle order. I’ve batted at No.4 for Hampshire this year and I was at No.5 last year. I enjoy No.4 and I think, with the way I play, if I do get an opportunity in the future I can see it being in the middle order.
Do you see the rest of this season – in all forms of the game – as an opportunity to keep your name in the hat?
Yeah, I think so. Obviously the first job is tomorrow – and if I can get some runs and help us win then that would be ideal. After that we’ve got three more County Championship games. I think we’re second in the table at the minute, 20 points behind the leaders Worcestershire so we’ve got it all to play for in that competition as well. After that we’ll be focusing all our efforts on that and hopefully a couple of wins will help us get promoted.
Do you think the extra responsibility of captaining is something you’ll thrive under tomorrow?
I hope so. As the tournament has gone on I’ve become more comfortable with the captaincy and hopefully on a big day like tomorrow the boys will all be up for it – and I’m sure they will be on an occasion like that – and I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure that we win. You do see the game in a different way as a captain and there is a lot more to think about. There have been some challenges along the way but I’ve enjoyed it and there’s one more big challenge to come tomorrow.