JAMES VINCE has been handed the job of batting at No.3 in this winter’s Ashes series – despite his record as a Test flop.
The Hampshire batsman will be named in England’s 16-man squad for the tour of Australia with Essex’s Tom Westley dumped.
ENGLAND’S ASHES SQUAD
Cook, Stoneman, Vince, Root (capt), Malan, Ballance, Stokes, Bairstow (wkt), Foakes (wkt), Moeen, Crane, Woakes, Broad, Anderson, Ball, C.Overton.
The squad includes three uncapped players – Somerset seamer Craig Overton, reserve wicketkeeper Ben Foakes and leg-spinner Mason Crane.
Overton gets the nod because England have decided not to risk Durham pace ace Mark Wood, who has been suffering with a heel injury.
All-rounder Ben Stokes, arrested following a fracas in Bristol, has been included but his participation remains under a cloud.
Vince had a top score of just 42 in seven Tests last summer and the way he kept nicking catches into the slips was almost like groundhog day. He has scored just two centuries for Hampshire during a modest summer in 2017.
But the selectors believe his technique could be suited to the bouncy pitches in Australia and the diet of quick bowling he will face.
Vince’s elegant style has often been compared to that of former England captain Michael Vaughan, who scored 633 runs in the Ashes series of 2002-03.
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If Vince does half as well on this trip, his selection will be regarded as a triumph.
He will be pencilled in to bat at No.3 behind openers Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman and it will be a tough task because Australia have arguably the best seam attack in the world with the likes of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.
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Westley scored a half-century on his debut against South Africa but his output faded as his bottom-hand technique was placed under the microscope.
Gary Ballance will contest the No.5 berth with Middlesex’s Dawid Malan while the likes of Alex Hales, Keaton Jennings, Sam Robson and Liam Livingstone miss out.
The selectors gave Wood every opportunity to prove his fitness because his extra pace makes him an X factor bowler. But they decided it was too much of a risk to take a player who is not 100 per cent fit.
Steven Finn took 8-79 for Middlesex against Lancashire last week but his form has not been good enough this summer to merit inclusion.
Finn was deemed “unselectable” by the management on England’s disastrous Ashes tour of 2013-14 and has never truly recorded his rhythm and confidence.
Overton is the twin of another Somerset seamer, Jamie Overton, and could come into consideration for the starting XI late in the five-Test series if England suffer injuries or decided to rest more senior bowlers.
Foakes is regarded by many as the best gloveman in county cricket and he can bat, too. He is chosen ahead of Jos Buttler, now regarded by England as a white ball specialist.
Hampshire spinner Crane, 20, will play only if England are confronted by a turning pitch that necessitates two spinners. But the management like his positive attitude and is one for the future.