James Vince is ready for a piece of the action with England’s team of entertainers as he stands on the verge of his “ultimate goal” of Test cricket.
Vince, who is set to make his debut at No 5 against Sri Lanka at Headingley in the first Investec Test, has had to wait for his chance to join contemporaries Joe Root and Ben Stokes at the highest level.
The 25-year-old was in the same class of England Under-19s as them and Jos Buttler –gainfully employed at the Indian Premier League at present – but not until last winter did his international breakthrough begin to gather pace.
It has done so at a time when England, after last summer’s hectic Ashes success and victory too in South Africa since, have a string of strokeplayers to complement the more stoic approach of captain Alastair Cook and incumbent No 3 Nick Compton.
Hampshire captain Vince will be fulfilling a childhood dream this week, and to ease his nerves he will treat the Leeds Test as simply another game alongside his former age-group stars.
“The freedom is there for everyone to see, and it has reflected in the results,” Vince said of the team evolving under the coaching of Trevor Bayliss and assistant Paul Farbrace.
“I didn’t feel under pressure when I went into the side in the Twenty20 squad over the winter – you are told to ‘express yourself, play the way you play, that’s why you have been picked’.
“In this team you are not under pressure to do anything different.”
The presence of established mainstays such as Root and Stokes will help him settle too.
“We had an Under-19s World Cup in New Zealand, so I’ve grown up playing with quite a few of the guys,” he added.
“Even just spending last winter with them, although I didn’t play as many games as I’d like, being around the guys makes it a lot easier coming into the dressing room.”
It is the environment fostered by England’s management that he finds especially reassuring, though.
“The majority of people in the T20 and ODI squad, the guys have played how they have done for their county with no fear – and it’s good to watch,” he said.
“I’ve been a part of the Twenty20 side, and it is good to be involved in and good fun.
“I still enjoy the shorter formats but, for me, the ultimate goal for me has always been to play Test cricket.”
Vince will be returning to the ground where he made a telling century for his county just a month ago, the innings which perhaps secured his bid to be England’s middle-order replacement for James Taylor, whose enforced early retirement with a heart condition came as such a shock to all.
There was a minor false start for Vince last week, when he was run out for nought on the same day Bayliss had travelled to watch him in Hampshire’s championship match at Old Trafford.
He did not let that bother him, however, and three days later learned he was in line for his debut.