James Vince, the T20 star but underrated cricketer

James Vince started his innings with a flurry of boundaries Getty Images

James Vince is pretty and effortless, but his second ball from Carlos Brathwaite had him running down the pitch at a short delivery. The ball seamed in - other players would get cramped - but Vince just swatted it majestically, as if it was the exact ball he wanted. It flew over backward square for six. Vince made an accident look like a beautiful dream.

That was the start of Vince's attractive thirty-something. When he's gone, you need not check social media; you already know what it says. A collection of, "oh no, not again" and "well that's predictable". Vince has earned that. It's something he knows, and he would love to change and score more runs.

Last season, Vince was playing for Sydney Thunder down in Hobart, where the Hobart Hurricanes struggled to make a decent score, scrapping their way to 161. Vince opened the innings and creamed his way to 44. On paper, another one of Vince's pretty yet ineffective scores. At the end of the Powerplay, Thunder were 58 for 0, Kurtis Patterson was 19 from 16, but Vince caressed 38 from 20. The Thunder had brought the required rate down to 7.45, or at least Vince had.

T20 is a different game, and a quick 30 or 40 is not a failure.


When you tell seasoned cricket judges - former players and writers - that someone is decent in T20, you can almost see how their brain works. "That guy, I've seen him, bowls swing, slogs a few, but not really top quality". For most of us, we still judge players on the whole, rather than for each format of the game. We often weigh our thoughts through what the player does in the longer form, because we know that over time, that is the biggest test of a cricketer.

But there are many players with average Test and first-class records that are incredible T20 players. Samuel Badree has a below average first-class record, but he is one of the first true T20 bowling greats.

David Willey in first-class cricket is a bits-and-pieces player, averaging 27 with the bat and 30 with the ball. Solid, but not Test worthy. As a T20 player, however, he is a monster. Willey can bat and bowl in the Powerplay (an incredible combination). He takes new-ball wickets, which are the most valuable, and he strikes every 16 balls, which is elite. As a batsman, he hits at 142, while averaging over 23, and smacks a boundary every 5.3 balls. And 40% of his boundaries are sixes. Willey can also be good at the death, with bat or ball. Meaning, not only can he dominate two parts of the game, but he can also change depending on what your team needs. You won't hear much hype for him. He is treated like a role player when he's far closer to a star.

This isn't new. Michael Bevan had to become the greatest ODI player of all time to be seen as anything but a Test failure. Players who aren't greats still get measured by their overall record.


Close your eyes and think about Vince getting out. Chances are, you'll see a catch in the cordon. Vince gets out like that a lot; we know those dismissals as much as we remember the immaculate cover drives that precede them. In T20 there's not much of a cordon. Vince can effortlessly waft outside off without the resulting humiliation that follows it.

Vince might not have cracked Tests, or even first-class yet, but in T20 he averages 30 and strikes at 132. Those are good numbers.

If you delve further, his numbers are more impressive. He scores over 30 in 40% of his matches, making him a player you can rely on, something rare in T20s. In the games where he faces over 20 balls, his teams win 65.5% of the time, meaning overall his longer innings have a good effect. And in the Powerplay, he strikes at 143 (8.6 an over) and hits a boundary every 4.8 deliveries, which is better than decent. And he makes a fifty every 5.5 games.

These are not the numbers of a pretty failure; they represent one of a quality T20 player.


Nathan Lyon comes on for the fourth over, and Vince runs down second ball, lifting the ball over wide mid-off for six. It's such a quality shot; you can see why he gets selected for higher honours despite not making a lot of runs.

Sean Abbott bowls straight and Vince plays the leg glance in a way that pleases the cricket gods. Then Vince thumps one away over leg, it's a slog, but in his hands it still looks like an elegant heave. Vince receives a yorker on the stumps and somehow guides it purposefully with a straight bat past the two fielders at short third man. I mean, come on man, you're being silly now.

At the end of the Powerplay, Thunder are 45 for 1, Vince is 29 off 18.

Vince passes 30, and almost immediately he should be stumped by Peter Nevill off Lyon, but the keeper fluffs it. Then Vince smashes a flat-bat shot virtually within grasp of short cover off Johan Botha, but instead, Vince takes two. Off his 25th ball, Vince tries to smash Lyon over long-on but doesn't get a lot of it. In five deliveries he should be dismissed three times. It's like passing 30 flicked his dismissal switch on. Same old Vince.

But his 34 off 25 carries the top order. Usman Khawaja, Shane Watson and Callum Ferguson made 18 runs between them. They faced 30% of the innings and made 11.50% of the runs. The rest of the Thunder players scored at 7.60 an over, Vince scored at 8.10.

From the outside, it was just another Vince thirty-odd. And it was. It was just another one of his many quality T20 innings.