Saturday, 23 October 2021

Sam Billings and Vince vie for opening role for England


CANBERRA: Same England tour, but another month, and another format. After Australia lorded the Ashes, and England returned the compliment in the 50-over series, England are competing in a 20-over tri-series with Australia and New Zealand.

The trio will play each other twice before the final in Auckland – no great context, yet better than the one-off T20 internationals usually stuffed into a tour.

To this end, England are practising in Canberra, with a day-night game against the Prime Minister’s XI on Friday before meeting Australia in Hobart on Wednesday. They play their second game against Australia in Melbourne before crossing the Tasman Sea for their two matches against New Zealand and, if they preserve their fluent white-ball form, the final.

Alex Hales injured a finger in dropping a catch in the last ODI, while Liam Plunkett and Chris Jordan are nursing hamstrings, which has led England to retain Jake Ball without including him in the -official squad. Hales’s injury has opened a door for either Sam Billings or James Vince to open with Jason Roy.

Billings has been something of a favourite of England’s white-ball selectors – 26 international caps already – but T20 is the format in which Vince has come closest to fulfilling himself. He may have had only five T20s, but he won the player-of-the-series award in the UAE in November 2015 when England beat Pakistan, now top of the rankings, and Vince shrewdly assessed the par total.

Since batting like a million dollars in the Ashes, yet averaging only 26, Vince has played three games for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash, batting well in two. The switch has stopped him fully – analysing where he went wrong in the Tests, though one word could suffice: shot-selection.

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