England have called up James Vince to their squad for the fourth test at the Ageas Bowl after a disappointing result in their last test at Trent Bridge. The hosts were comfortably beaten by 203 runs, with India well and truly getting the better of Trevor Bayliss’ men in the batting department.
Wicket keeper Jonny Bairstow fractured his finger in the test, leading to Jos Buttler having to take over the gloves midway through the test. While Bairstow is certain not to keep at the Ageas Bowl, England are still hopeful that he can play as a specialist batsman. If YJB doesn’t recover in time, Vince will be his likely replacement, and the Hampshire captain will be eager to again kickstart his international career at his home ground. He scored 74 and 147 at the same venue earlier this week as Hants crushed Nottinghamshire by 270 runs and has been in fine form in Division One this season, averaging 56.
Vince was part of the England squad that toured Australia and New Zealand last winter, as seen on the LW Cricket Blog. His test record is mediocre- 548 runs from 13 tests at an average of just under 25 is nothing to crow about. However Vince got starts in almost all his innings Down Under, but often threw his wicket away after settling in, and the 27 year old will be keen to make his second chance count, for there may not be another one if he fails here.
On paper, England’s top order appears as fragile as India’s, with Keaton Jennings and Alastair Cook both appearing woefully out of form. Some timely contributions from the middle and lower middle order had papered over the cracks at both Edgbaston and Lord’s, but in the absence of a similar knock at Trent Bridge, the result was painful- a crushing 203 run defeat that has re-opened questions about the brittleness of their batting.
In almost half their innings since 2016, England have lost their first four wickets with the score less than 100. That’s an alarming stat, and explains their need to play the in-form Bairstow only as a specialist batsman, even if he can’t keep. The hosts desperately need someone to contribute regularly at the top, and more importantly, bat time. There is no question over skipper Joe Root’s pedigree with the bat, but he has been outshone by opposition captain Virat Kohli this series.
Vince’s inclusion may also solve another problem that England might have needed to solve in Bairstow’s absence-at slip. England’s catching in the slips has been abysmal, and with Buttler taking over the gloves, that leaves a vacancy in the cordon that Vince could fill.