JAMES Vince is hoping to become the youngest captain to win county cricket’s T20 competition as Hampshire prepare for a record fifth successive Finals Day.
Eyebrows were raised when Vince was handed the task of succeeding Dimi Mascarenhas as Hampshire’s captain in the shortest format in April, having only turned 23 a few weeks earlier.
But he has risen to the challenge as Hampshire’s youngest professional/post-war captain and their youngest for 80 years, since Dick Moore.
Having ensured Hampshire’s place at Finals Day with a breathtaking 93 not out against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, Vince is two wins from lifting the county’s third T20 trophy in five years.
Should he do so, he will become the competition’s youngest-winning captain. Graeme Smith, one of South Africa’s most successful captains after being appointed at 22, was 24 when he led Somerset to the domestic T20 title in 2005, while Alex Wakeley was only a few months older when he led Northants to last year’s title.
What makes Vince’s achievement in leading Hampshire to another Finals Day all the more impressive is his limited experience, having done very little captaincy even at age-group level.
He has grown into the role as the competition has progressed.
“In the first couple of games I was finding my feet a little bit but as it’s gone on it’s got easier,” he said.
“I’ve become more confident in the decisions I’ve been making, I’m less hesitant and am backing myself more. I’m sure the other guys when I first started weren’t too sure how I was going to go in the job but hopefully they’ve got a bit more confidence in me now as well.”
Inevitably, Vince felt some pressure to do well at the start of the competition.
“It was a privilege to be asked, but having made four Finals Days in a row and won it twice I didn’t want to take on the captaincy and go out in the group stages,” he said.
“But expectations weren’t enormous on me [because of my age]. I’ve enjoyed it. There’s more to it than I initially thought, I think about the game a lot more away from the ground, but hopefully it can move on in the future.
“Making certain decisions after a couple of losses can be a bit stressful at times but that’s part of the job and the guys have been brillaint.
“We’ve got a very talented squad of players who do their jobs well and that’s made mine easier.”
Vince is one of four Hampshire players to have featured in all four of the county’s previous Finals Days.
Jimmy Adams and Sean Ervine are two of the others, while Danny Briggs is another ‘veteran’ born since the turn of 1990.
Hampshire also have the winning experience of Michael Carberry and Chris Wood, who were in the winning sides of 2010 and 2012.
Vince is hoping Hampshire’s big-match nous proves decisive. ` “Over the last four or five years we’ve made a nice habit of coming out on the right side, we’ve scraped over the line on a couple of occasions on the big stage and you can’t re-enact those pressure situations in training,” he added.
Hampshire’s semi-final against Lancashire at Edgbaston on Saturday afternoon is likely to see Vince play against at least one future England teammate in Jos Buttler and possibly another in James Anderson.
Vince has not been included in England’s squad for next month’s ODI series against India but his time will come soon enough.
He has been encouraged by the call-up for Alex Hales, his England Lions roommate, as well as the progress made by the likes of Joe Root and Buttler.
“I’ve done as much as I can to push my name forward, we’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “Ideally I’d have scored more runs for the Lions [last week], but seeing those guys go on gives you belief.”